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Is the future of metaverse advertising cross-platform activations?

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As brands enter the metaverse, several companies are starting to build branded experiences across multiple virtual platforms. Some marketers believe this type of cross-platform activation is the future of metaverse advertising — but not everyone is convinced quite yet.

For the most part, brands interested in activating in the metaverse have historically focused their efforts on singular platforms such as Roblox or Fortnite. One reason for this is that creator studios that design virtual spaces are often focused on specific platforms, making it necessary to work with multiple creators to activate in more than one platform at a time. 

Recently, though, this has begun to change. Brands like Netflix and iHeartMedia launched similarly-named and -designed spaces simultaneously across several metaverse platforms. For example, iHeartLand exists in both Roblox and Fortnite, as does Netflix’s virtual Minehaunt Spooktacular experience.

While the spaces share some aspects from platform to platform, including their names, programming and visual aesthetic, they are not truly interoperable or directly connected in any way. Each exists independently of another, and an individual user could operate different avatars in each space at the same time. They are not different representations of the same unified and persistent space — they are entirely separate virtual locations built around similar frameworks.

“These are really different platforms, with really different demographics — both young, yes, but differently young,” said Conal Byrne, CEO of iHeart Digital Audio Group. “One, Roblox, is a user-generated platform at its core, and the other is a true gaming platform with more of a guided experience.”

The Netflix experience was built by the metaverse development company Super League, which plans to follow a similar strategy for the Yas Island activation it announced in October. In partnership with the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the company plans to recreate the popular Abu Dhabi tourist destination inside both Roblox and The Sandbox, as well as building a bespoke metaverse space using Unreal Engine. The space is set to launch in March 2023, intended to raise awareness of Yas Island across the different demographic groups present on each platform.

The purpose of this type of diversification is to help brands reach the vastly different audiences served by each platform, as well as to give them more direct control over their metaverse futures through the creation of brand-owned spaces, according to Super League Chief Commercial Officer Matt Edelman. 

“There is no single metaverse environment where everybody spends all their time,” Edelman said. “If you are looking at bringing a brand or a business into the metaverse, it’s much less important to choose a single place, and much more important to choose how to help extend that partner’s business into these immersive 3D environments in the right ways.”

Edelman said he and his team at Super League believe that this kind of cross-platform activation will become the standard as brands become more comfortable operating in the metaverse. But not all metaverse experts are convinced. For instance, launching a space across multiple platforms simultaneously could risk confusing marketers and potential consumers who are inexperienced with the metaverse.

“As a marketer, the golden rule is to introduce audiences to platforms one by one whenever you want to A/B test or penetrate into new channels,” said Natalia Vasilyeva, evp of marketing and strategy for the in-game advertising company Anzu.

Skeptics also believe that the demographic differences between the audiences of popular virtual platforms could act as an advantage rather than a detriment for marketers looking to reach consumers in the metaverse. Most brands are trying to reach a specific target audience, and the predominance of different demographic groups across platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox allows marketers to choose the one that best fits their brand. 

“If it was me, I would actually not launch the same experience in two different platforms at the same time,” said Margot Rodde, founder of Creators Corp., a Fortnite Creative studio. “I would go on one platform and do it well — really engage with the audience and amplify it as much as I can around that activation.” Diversification, she said, risks diluting the hype.

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