A recent survey by integrated communications company RRD revealed a surprising statistic: 94 percent of marketing decision-makers believe the metaverse represents a new way to reach their audiences. Yet just 15 percent of consumers are actually using metaverse channels. This gap between marketers’ aspirations and consumers’ underwhelming adoption of this new media landscape might actually be explained by gaming.

Marketers May Be Catching Up, But They’re Not Surging Ahead

RRD’s Macro Marketing Report, which surveyed 1,000 marketing leaders and 500 consumers, revealed that not only do the overwhelming majority of marketers see the metaverse as an important opportunity to connect with new audiences, 77 percent are already preparing to shift resources to develop marketing strategies for metaverse spaces in the near future. Despite low participation rates by consumers, marketers are well aware of the metaverse’s potential as a sleeping giant.

Gaming Is Already “Metaversal”

First of all, almost everyone is a gamer. Even if you restrict yourself to Wordle, you probably won’t resist playing a virtual reality version. Gaming is now a component of most of our lives, and as the medium morphs and becomes better at delivering practical and engaging features and experiences, we will likely game even more. Recent data shows that at least two-thirds of Americans play video games regularly. And the metaverse is a landscape that encourages games to evolve in new ways, from making VR games more immersive and communal experiences to providing new opportunities for marketers to develop branded in-game and in-stream micro-interactions that take advantage of consumers’ undisrupted attention.

Marketers know that interrupting a gaming experience with an ad can be a dicey endeavor— after all, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to introduce brandable moments in spaces where consumers go specifically to escape reality. Yet the metaverse presents a new option for brands seeking to blend seamlessly into an immersive experience and deliver messaging effectively. Whether it’s a dynamic 3D billboard in Roblox, a Billie Eilish jam session on Oculus Quest or a Twitch livestream hosted by Tony the Tiger, the metaverse is actively spawning new opportunities for brands. That means marketers don’t have to be the bad guys. They can remove—almost–everything that consumers hate about advertising, like interruptions and irrelevance, and deliver what they actually like: entertainment and information, along with a healthy dose of cool tech.

Marketers are readying themselves for a metaversal shift because most consumers are already primed for better experiences, and most of us are eager to try them out. A recent survey by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence found that two-thirds of consumers believe the metaverse “could be life-changing,” and 68 percent described it as the “next internet.” Only 15 percent felt confident in explaining what it was, however.

The Metaverse Has Us All—And It’s OK

Top marketers are usually pretty good at determining what drives consumer engagement—whether that’s with a platform where an audience might see their brand’s message or with an online ad that appears at the right moment and wins a click. Beneath the art and science of brand marketing are those basic human needs and wants that drive consumers to see a product or service as an answer. And for many consumers, the metaverse is a place where it’s easier for them to feel welcome. According to a recent study by Momentum Worldwide:

· 80 percent of surveyed consumers see spaces in the metaverse as more inclusive.
· 85 percent said they like that they can present themselves openly in any way that they want.
· 79 percent said their friends in the metaverse accept them for who they are, without regard for their looks.

Whether those warm and fuzzy feelings remain as the metaverse matures beyond a place for friends, the underlying theme is critical: Consumers expect the metaverse to be more inclusive, personalizable and more relevant to them than previous digital experiences. That means ads have to be better—more creative and immersive. Metaverse ads, at least the successful ones, must be targeted to consumers’ needs, interests and values—not just trends. Ads in a space that consumers may see as a refuge from the rest of the internet may matter a lot more, hit them harder and fail even more spectacularly if marketers get it wrong. The metaverse is being built to be a place for serious fun, but it’s also a new kind of space for human interactions. And that means what it offers will be as important to consumers as how well it works.

Consumers see the metaverse as an open road of experiences and new types of interactions. Unsurprisingly, only 20 percent of the RRD survey respondents resonated with the statement, “I am not involved in the metaverse and am not interested in it.”

Read the full report here.