How advertising can save us from a soulless Metaverse: Opinion

Creatives have a moral obligation to stave off a completely clickable future.

How advertising can save us from a soulless Metaverse: Opinion

We make thousands of choices a day, so it will feel pretty messed up when the world is run by an army of robots that control every choice we make—from how we dress to the way we sleep to whether we get pickles on our sammies.

Only advertising can save us from this fate.

Epic Games invested $1 billion in the Metaverse, which its CEO described as “a real-time, computer-powered 3D entertainment and social medium in which real people would go into a 3D simulation together and have experiences of all sorts.”

If you think the idea of a spatial web you can exist in is exciting, maybe we’re one step closer to the battery fields of The Matrix.

Whatever your opinion, the Metaverse—among other things, an always-on, completely immersive shopping mall that will connect every aspect of our physical and digital lives—will be built by brands, which are the only organizations incentivized to get people to live perpetually online. A human in the spatial web creates oodles of data, is a click away from purchasing virtual clothes and is a hungry consumer of branded content and experiences all day long. It is therefore up to brands to define the physical and ethical laws of the Metaverse.

But what if we could help brands build a world that did more than just deliver hyper-targeted 4D banner ads? Advertising creatives have a moral obligation to save us from a completely clickable future. Here’s how we can do it:

Don’t work for the algorithm

Social media’s algorithm is designed to elevate content that is most similar to what has already been successful. That means originality is being tuned out of the internet. Use your creativity to make content that humans actually desire and your salesmanship to help clients understand that simply buying targeted media is creating millions of false impressions. Swipe Night winning a Grand Prix is evidence that it's possible to move the needle in new ways.

Influencers are people, too

Every time you work with an influencer, be sure to actually creatively collaborate with them. If we don’t, we’re building a future where our kids will aspire to become digital avatars who don't have a point of view, or develop any skills, because all they'll need is a blue check to get a paycheck. Check out Noname’s Book Club to see how an online voice can elevate the conversation.

Make human choices

The only good Super Bowl ad was from Reddit because it was impossible to watch. It required participation and therefore was immensely shareable. This type of engagement strategy invites people to enter a world and play. No one cares if Bill Murray finally did a commercial. It’s 2021; people want to tell their own story now. Introduce friction into the user journey so people have a reason to share something.

Read the manual

The reason Alexa Skills are lame is that nobody plays with them. But, you can change that by learning more about how your tech actually works. Ever read through the data Instagram is using to serve you ads? (t’s easy: Settings > Security > Access Data > Ad Interests) to understand how brutally arbitrary and wildly biased targeted ads are? It’s key for modern marketers to think of themselves as creators of tech, not just customers.

Read sci-fi, not trends

Sci-Fi is an incredible place to research what’s not yet possible. Writers such as Neal Stephenson imagine and explain what will happen in a world filled with all these crazy pieces of tech. This is important because as the Metaverse takes shape, the cultural implications of tech, (such as access to Wi-Fi, wonderfully detailed in ‘‘Snow Crash,’’ can have huge effects on the population. To take a cue from the Afro-futurist movement which, in the words of Tucker Anderson, seeks to “explore alternative realities, cope with the past as a means of navigating the present and reimagine the future,” science fiction can help us see over the crest of trends and imagine a future where content can be additive, where data-sharing can be consent-based and unfamiliar voices can drive innovative thinking.

Be a punk

The internet is still very young, so we should ignore traditional media and look entirely to experimentation and rule-breakers to find out what’s possible. My friend @Joe-Schiappa has moved all his social posts to Venmo and will post only if you pay him. It’s the best media strategy since Kickstarter and it’s happening for an audience of fewer than a thousand people—for now.

Any creative person who feels a shred of responsibility for making the world a better place should get a job in advertising today. To those of you who are already copywriters, art directors and strategists, the fate of the human race is in your hands. The choices you make today are shaping the virtual worlds of tomorrow.