First published in The Drum
By Dom Robertson, Managing Director, RPM
As the industry’s current obsession, the metaverse is carrying the weight of a diverse array of hopes: brilliant digital experiences, boundless opportunities and even major societal change. But, as Dom Robertson, managing director of agency RPM argues, we risk missing out on its most transformative possibilities if we allow the metaverse to be built in the image of the world that birthed it. Instead, we have to focus on equity and inclusivity from the get-go.
Open, collaborative and ever-evolving; the opportunities of the metaverse are vast. Digital experiences have a unique opportunity to create more equitable experiences for many, but how can brands ensure that inclusivity and sustainability is at the forefront when old habits die head?
The Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the requirement for, and facility of, digital experiences. The arrival of the metaverse and the theory of web3 puts digital experience firmly in the real world, offering the same and potentially greater opportunity to connect people, continents and cultures immediately. The potential pace of this change is mind-blowing – in fact, we risk moving so fast we don’t see some obstacles ahead. If we don’t take the time to appraise the opportunity for its societal merits, we may be missing the point.
Helping the dream to become a reality
The metaverse could be the great leveler for experiences – you don’t have to be there to be there – and digital attendance allows for accessibility to lead the way.
But if this brave new world is built by the same people who built the real world, won’t we have the same disparities in accessibility that we have here on old analog Earth? Might we miss out on a world without barriers and a truly connected ecosystem?
Though hearing metaverse dreams is food for thought, the possibilities remain endless and academic until they are realized. I was asked recently by a brand contact why one might use an experience in a metaverse space to deliver something that could feasibly be delivered in real life. It’s a good question, and not an obvious answer when you look at things with traditional eyes.
Through the sustainability and inclusivity lens
Our B Corp certification adds a lens of responsibility to how we approach our work, and it opens the mind to the opportunity to reduce barriers to participation. My response to my brand contact, and the core of the real opportunity in the metaverse, is its potential for good: its notionally democratic promise of a world without borders, affording people access to a truly inclusive space.
Accessibility is in the eye of the beholder, and the pressure is on for the metaverse to be an inclusive space. That perfect inclusive virtual world won’t happen if we passively sit back and hope for the best. The opportunity is to be in the driving seat, starting from the ground up – both for the people who build the metaverse and the marketing teams attracting audiences to it, not to mention consumers themselves. This is the power of the metaverse and the next wave of brand experience – participation at scale through equitable access.
Late in 2021, Diageo hosted a global brand strategy launch in the metaverse, Destination Reserve. Diageo wanted to test the boundaries of the platform and where the experience could benefit from its digital application. Accessibility was the name of the game, allowing as many people as possible to attend, no matter their location or level of technical access. It was a space that could be entered by Diageo colleagues across the globe, giving every delegate an equal experience, fostering parity and inclusivity across the event. We began our partnership with Vatom, the web3 platform developer for this project, and together we offer digital experience expertise to our clients navigating this exciting space.
Web3 and the future
Web3’s potential is to reshape the world we know and its power structures. This is much more than just a marketing channel. The opportunity is to reposition finance, decision-making and consumer agency; consumers can help shape events and build worlds to reflect themselves in a much more immediate way. It’s not an overnight solution. We’ll take small wins in the interim; being inquisitive, questioning the representation in the virtual events we’re building, having fair policies in place to ensure we’re reaching everyone. But it is a start, and one that could be an immense force for good.