We are in the early stages of the next wave of internet evolution; undoubtedly, the metaverse will change the advertising landscape and people like UNIT9’s Giacomo Vigliar are poised on the precipice of this frontier, simultaneously witnessing and helping to mold it. While social media has connected the global population with immediate ease, the unprecedented experiences offered via the metaverse will change that interaction and empower our very way of life to drastically transform. Innovation is always partnered with commerce but this doesn’t need to be a purely financial relationship. As an executive producer at the Los Angeles office of global production studio UNIT9, Vigliar has been instrumental in the marriage of artistic choices with brands to deliver exciting new experiences for the public. Art, sports, film, and many other areas have all felt the prominent and prolific effects or UNIT9 and Giacomo was hired to ensure that this is the direction which the company establishes within the metaverse. Industry recognitions which include Berlin MVAs, UK MVAs, Campaign Tech Awards, a Cannes Lions, and others confirm that UNIT9 is creating some of the most innovative productions ever seen.
Most of us know the metaverse through games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft. The world building and online interaction of these platforms announced the popularity a virtual shared space. As this evolves, brands have begun to perceive the potential to form their own ecosystems and ensure synchronicity across multiple channels in the metaverse, as well as act as a platform for compelling hybrid physical and digital experiences. People spend a great deal of time in these environments and this has the power to yield benevolent results for users. UNIT9 worked with the Ad Council to create “She Can STEM”, a digital gaming experience encouraging girls to lean into STEM and make it more accessible. This included challenges within the world of Minecraft which could unlock complimentary tickets to an exclusive virtual concert. This venture produced 100% retention and spanned fourteen countries. Verizon worked with UNIT9 during the pandemic shutdown to create “The Met Unframed”, an AR experience which was part virtual tour/part game/part educational challenge. In addition to its learning potential, “The Met Unframed” confirmed that important spaces like the Metropolitan Art Museum would still be accessible in a very personal and experiential manner. Projects such as these illustrate the massive benefits to be gained by utilizing the metaverse. Hyper focused on the engagement created by directors and storytellers, UNIT9 has harnessed technological advances to expand the methods of these artists.
The enjoyment of the metaverse by individuals is obvious; the question is, what are the benefits for the brands who are pursuing this avenue? UNIT9 has worked on projects with the most globally recognizable brands, brands such as Adidas, Verizon, Twitter, Nike, Hulu, and Uber, among others. Giacomo Vigliar explains, “At UNIT9, I’ve had a birds-eye view of this movement. Right now, brands have a real chance to enter the metaverse early and take ownership of how these experiences will develop for their own audiences. Eventually, more brands will create their own experiences outside the current existing platforms (such as Minecraft or Fortnite). This will allow them to grow beyond the platform’s capabilities, aesthetic, and user base – and really have more direct access to consumers. These reimagined worlds offer an opportunity for them to connect more emotionally and create a truly engaging experience.”
The change in direction towards the metaverse is the culmination of many factors. The rise of NFTs, shifting consumer behavior, and a growing trend on digital fashion are all stepping stones towards these virtual worlds. The general population is interested in this direction and brands are pursuing ways to capture their attention while offering something unique. Consumers are far more savvy about the manner in which the connect with a product or a brand than they used to be. Giacomo stipulates that brands will need to be sincere in what they offer via the metaverse. He conveys, “From a brand point of view, their focus should be entering this space in an authentic way rather than a PR gimmick, and truly understand the value that this opportunity brings to their table. If not, audiences can get tired of it once the novelty passes. Another huge aspect is data privacy. Both brands and companies need to consider this aspect and really respect consumer data and practice ethical marketing, especially given the lack of trust built up in the past few years.” The shift of Facebook to Meta and Nike’s establishing a dedicated metaverse team indicates that this is a path which most companies, if not all, will pursue in the near future. The metaverse is the next frontier and it is already being built. It will revolutionize marketing in the same way as social media and usher in a new lifestyle for us all.