Brand Strategy Metaverse Augmented Reality

How AR and the ‘real-world metaverse’ can augment traditional media

By Adam Shlachter, Head of Marketing, Strategic & Brand Partnerships



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April 11, 2023 | 7 min read

In a recent piece, augmented reality specialists Niantic laid out the case for a ‘real world metaverse’. Here, Adam Shlachter looks at recent work with a drinks brand that, he says, shows the way forward.

A 'unisphere' representation of the globe

The metaverse we dreamed of might be far off - but is a 'real-world metaverse' already here? / David Watkis via Unsplash

If you ask ten people to define the metaverse, you might get ten different answers. Or, more likely, you’ll get nine people articulating a Ready Player One-esque vision, where people are cut off from the real world and the promise of exploration and connection it holds.

That metaverse hasn’t come to pass yet, and that’s okay. But it leaves marketers looking to develop a metaverse strategy with two questions: What happened to all the hype? And what’s next?

2023’s ‘metaverse’

What has happened since the metaverse entered the zeitgeist? It would be inaccurate to say it was all empty hype, but it’s just not taking the shape that many people expected. Consumers don’t want to completely disengage from reality. They want something that enhances their real-world experience, that makes reality better, what we at Niantic call the ‘real-world metaverse’. Some brands are capitalizing on this insight right now, but many are building for a world that consumers aren’t quite ready to adopt.

What comes next boils down to acclimation. As anyone who has ever trained for a high-altitude climb knows, you don’t start your training by summiting the mountain. You, gradually, get comfortable at higher and higher altitudes before making the big climb. In the same vein, it’s important that marketers help consumers get acclimated to the real-world metaverse. The best way to do this is to lean into the power of augmented reality (AR).

The brand opportunity

Bon Viv’s Spiked Seltzer’s recent work with Aircards and my Niantic colleagues 8th Wall is a great example of a brand leveraging AR to help consumers realize the potential of mixed reality experiences.

What AB InBev-owned Bon Viv understood – and what other marketers can learn from – is that AR can augment and enhance traditional media campaigns. With Aircards and 8th Wall, they created an innovative out-of-home (OOH) campaign where consumers could scan a QR code printed on a series of Bon Viv murals across Los Angeles and San Diego to unlock a digital-3D vending machine. Consumers were then able to select and receive their favorite flavor in 3D, and were presented with a call-to-action driving them to nearby retail locations stocked with the drink, or digital delivery options via integration with Instacart.

The experience saw an average dwell time of two minutes and 58% of all users clicked-through to pick up a can of Bon Viv. These results are orders of magnitude greater than industry averages for most traditional digital channels. Thanks to webAR, which can be accessed anywhere via mobile browsers, the overall experience was seamless, additive to the customer journey and connective. That is exactly what people are looking for.

This campaign was a success because it started with a medium consumers are very familiar with, and used augmented reality to transport them to a more immersive and personal experience. Consumers got huge value because it presented them with an immediate call to action that they had self-selected. Bon Viv saw instant ROI, with the experience driving measurable conversion, an aspect that has traditionally eluded OOH marketers. Most importantly from a broader AR marketing perspective, it trained the audience to engage with media in a new way, consistent with the version of the metaverse they want to participate in.#

New worlds for marketers

My colleague Kjell Bronder said something recently that stuck with me: “Our devices – phones today, but headsets tomorrow – are going to have the contextual understanding of the world that you’re evolving in and can start bringing you information, new types of content, getting you out of your phone, and really into the world in a whole new context.”

The Bon Viv OOH experience is a great example of this vision in action. Consumers don’t have to think about the coding and development that delivered the custom modeling, animation, branded map functionality and back-end analytics. All they have to do is experience the magic of a device seamlessly understanding where you are in the world and guiding you to where you want to go. WebAR makes it easy for consumers to move between the physical and digital worlds. This ease of use unlocks a world of potential for marketers too.

The metaverse is here; it’s the world around us. And a future where people are even more accustomed to mixed reality experiences is coming. Marketers looking to see immediate ROI should invest in AR marketing now, not as an experiment, but as a core part of their modern marketing strategy. It is both an immediate brand-building tool and an opportunity to acclimate consumers who are eager to experience what the real-world metaverse can do for them.

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Brand Strategy Metaverse Augmented Reality

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Niantic builds augmented reality technology that powers the real-world metaverse. Its Lightship platform is the world’s first scaled AR platform, enabling developers...

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