Creative Strategy in the Metaverse

Palm Trees during Art Basel Miami
Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Recently, Traction introduced The Futureproof Project—an exclusive think tank to help senior brand leaders help one another to succeed in Web 3.0—at Brand Innovators Art Basel in Miami.

Our accelerator model enables us to bring together some of the most exceptional talent, and at Art Basel, we interviewed two of them:

Kelani Nichole , an extended reality designer who has run the experimental media art gallery, TRANSFER, and has been exploring decentralized networks and virtual worlds in contemporary art for a decade. Kelani is also a Traction consultant and has moderated some of the first design thinking workshops we've led for brands as part of The Futureproof Project.

... and Billie Goldman from Intel, winner of 22 Cannes Awards, multiple Effies and Webbies, and even a Daytime Emmy for the innovative creative work she's done there in social film, who has been a tour guide through the metaverse, and is joining Traction to work on select projects as one of our Web3 consultants. Billie is one of the inaugural brand leaders that has joined The Futureproof Project.

In the coming years, brands will need to harness this wave of technologies to turn potential disruption into competitive advantage—but it's very difficult to separate the reality from the hype. Billion-dollar Metaverse start-up Decentraland was recently reported to have 38 active users in one day. FTX just collapsed and took $8B in investor money with it. Crypto and NFTs are in the toilet. Anyone who explored Second Life a decade ago knows that adding a VR headset and calling it Third Life will still be a shitty experience. Meanwhile, agencies are out there promoting Web3 playbooks that sound a lot like roadmaps to the desert.

Building ghost towns is not a great marketing strategy.

Not An NFT

However, just as with the earlier iterations of the web, those who don't adapt to new technologies that make up "Web 3.0" are at risk of being dramatically disrupted. The winners will be the leaders that futureproof their brands. They will be the ones to transform innovation into competitive advantage.

2023 will be a challenging year, but innovation is born from periods like we are in right now. Massive financial shifts have sidetracked Web3 investment, but those shifts have historically been catalysts for innovation.

They provide an opportunity to break things apart and ask 'what do people want?' Here is the opportunity. If we look past the hype, and take a chill pill as a cure for Shiny Object Syndrome, it's clear that emerging technology is going to change everything again. There are two things that absolutely do exist today:

On one hand, we have emerging technology that is being developed at a dizzying pace—augmented reality, virtual reality, AI, wearable devices, robotics and blockchain are here right now.

On the other side, a cultural zeitgeist around the ethos of Web3 is putting the Z in Gen-Z. Celebrities, hipsters, billionaires are all circling around Web3 because it's not just about technology. It is based on principles—of empowered communities, of democracy, of ownership, of decentralized wealth and power.

What is missing are the use cases that will provide the connective tissue between the technology and the insights. As those emerge, we will see a new wave of disruption that rivals any we've seen since the dawn of the internet. And we believe that harnessing creativity through design thinking can unlock those use cases.

Onstage at Art Basel, I asked Billie and Kelani about their thoughts on how their experience can help brands uncover those use cases. So, what is the recipe for breakthrough work? Billies shared that most of those awards she won were for social films where Intel mashed up a blockbuster movie with social networking and allowed the audience the opportunity to participate in the film.

The insights for creating these films were:

1) We needed to create an emotional bond for our brands with a younger audience.

2) Watching video/movies was the #1 thing that was being done with our cell phones.

3) When you give the audience an opportunity to participate, they not only remember the experience better, but are vested in the success of the film.

Billie has been dabbling in Augmented Reality at Intel recently:

"We are just now at a point where you no longer need an app [to experience AR] and instead can launch AR from a QR code where it is web based. I've done 2 executions, both for the Developer audience and I see so much potential for this application in everyday life....imagine walking into your AirBnB and all the instructions for how to do things, like how to turn on the heater are available in AR."

So, how do we get to a Creative Brief for successful Web3 initiatives:

First, it needs to be built with Purpose, not Profit in mind. Provide a strong value exchange for the audience for their time that has real meaning. Make meaning, not money....the money will follow.

Second, it needs to treat people as Citizens as opposed to Consumers or a target audience.

Third, it needs to give those Citizens a way to contribute to the experience.

And finally, Make it dead simple. Do not make it kitchy or gimmicky, but instead to provide real value in the experience.

With all of these components, a strong desire to create a breakthrough experience that exceeds the expectations of the audience, and a brave marketer are the "lightning in the bottle" that we need to make futureproofing start to happen.

About the author
Adam Kleinberg

Adam Kleinberg is CEO and founding partner of Traction. He has written over 75 articles in publications like to AdAge, Adweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Mashable and Digiday.

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