‘It will be part of our lives’: why Havas sees a future in metaverse marketing
As the sheen comes off the metaverse, Havas Play – an agency dedicated to taking brands into gaming, sports and entertainment – is investing in a dedicated partnership with The Sandbox.
Havas Play’s Eduoard Lafaye says The Sandbox’s tools for artists and creators point to the future of web3 marketing / The Sandbox
The Sandbox has made its broader web3 integration a large part of its USP. While other online gaming platforms like Roblox and Fortnite Creative were going all-in on ATL campaigns with brands, The Sandbox has been integrating other aspects of web3 into its operations.
It is that wider appeal, says Havas Play’s COO of web3 and web2 Eduoard Lafaye, that lies behind the partnership. He believes that as web3 quietly transforms the way audiences interact with brands in online spaces, there are huge opportunities for brands to build communities on a platform like The Sandbox.
He says: “We are convinced that brands need to re-engage or engage differently with their audiences and with the younger teams. We saw that Nike is going there, Adidas is going there… it will give them the power and the features and to recreate and link in a better, meaningful way.”
To that end, the Havas Play partnership is a global endeavor, albeit one led by the team in Paris. Over the course of the next six months, the wider Havas team is set to be introduced to both the tech that powers web3 and The Sandbox, and to the marketing opportunities that come with it.
“Havas Play is in a unique position to help major brands be relevant in the new entertainment culture at the crossroads of gaming, the creator economy, and true digital ownership,” said Mathieu Cervety, ecosystem partnerships director of The Sandbox. “This partnership is a great chance for brands to build their web3 community and bring engagement like never before.”
Crucially, Lafaye says that while the tech is naturally exciting, Havas is more concerned with getting its brand partners to consider the metaverse as part of a 360-degree campaign: “It’s the beginning of the beginning. We need to work with big agencies to really understand them and identify their marketing objectives and see how the web3 pillar is integrated. It has to be part of a 360-integrated activation.”
Given that the hype around the metaverse and web3 has died down in the first few months of 2023, that strategy seems to be borne out of necessity as much as optimism about the future of web3 marketing. Lafaye notes that, in the face of economic pressure from the war in Ukraine and a wider slowdown in consumer spending, brands are less likely to commit to experimental ad spend than they might otherwise have been.
Towards the end of last year, it was reported from multiple sources that platforms including The Sandbox and Decentraland had fewer than 1,000 daily active users, effectively making them limited for marketing purposes. The Sandbox’s internal metrics, per the release accompanying the Havas news, instead show 360,000 unique players spending 80 minutes a day on average during its 10-week Alpha Season 3.
Regardless of the user numbers, Lafaye argues that, for the moment, the biggest benefit for advertisers is that platforms like The Sandbox allow them to experiment and gain legitimacy in the industry before it blows up.
He says: “What we’re doing is we are educating, training, and verbalizing all of those complicated worlds… to say to them that it’s like the cloud or something. Nobody in a couple of years will talk about ‘NFTs’ or ‘wallet’ or virtual versus real or metaverse. It will be part of our life.”
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In particular, he notes that the time spent with branded experiences on metaverse platforms far eclipses time spent on social media, providing many more touchpoints for brands that can do it well. Given that the majority of current metaverse experiences focus on growing brand awareness, that lengthy amount of time is a core KPI for brands in web3.
Lafaye also believes that while the current crop of brands experimenting in the web3 space is typically consumer-facing brands in fashion and luxury, an opportunity exists for most B2C brands. He specifically cites the work of automotive companies within the space, many of whom are focusing on the act of co-creation with their consumers and audiences.
Much of the industry’s focus has moved from web3 to generative AI, although it has also been argued this allows brands to conduct more appropriately-sized experiments in the metaverse without too much hype. For Havas Play the big opportunity is in setting out its own expertise in the area – and educating its partners on how to do the same.