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Fortnite, the metaverse and UGC: Key learnings from Advertising Week Europe

by Nick Woodford

May 24, 2022

Last week, Advertising Week Europe hit London. Leaders from across the media, advertising, entertainment, and technology industries descended on the capital for three days of insight into the world of advertising.

Having not been to an Advertising Week for a few years – in part because of the pandemic – I wasn’t sure what to expect or how many people would feel comfortable attending. I was excited to be back in person at a big event for the first time in a while, and needless to say, a lot of people felt the same way. Upon entering PictureHouse Central, located just off London’s bustling Piccadilly Circus, it was clear that people were so ready to be back at a live event.

After queuing to get in (one of the downsides I’d forgotten happens at in-person events), a complimentary bag of popcorn was thrust into my hand, and I was quickly ushered up the stairs into the main atrium, abuzz with people enjoying coffee and planning out where to spend their day. With over 300 speakers, 100 sessions, and six stages, planning was certainly needed.

Much like the metaverse has dominated advertising headlines over the past 12 months, it also stole the show at this year’s Advertising Week, with a huge number of sessions covering the topic. I spent most of my time at these sessions, keen to understand what and how different companies approach the topic, and what new ideas could emerge. However, many of the sessions grappled with the same problem – that is, no one really knows what this space is going to look like or how we will operate in it, let alone how we will advertise in it. Even so, a few speakers gave it a darn good try.

Meta’s metaverse

Meta’s Tuesday session, titled ‘Exploring the New Frontiers of Creativity in the Metaverse’, focused on the retail and transactional side of the metaverse, and how it might work for the consumers of the future. Tying it into what is currently on offer, three creative experts from Meta - Caitlin Ryan (VP, Creative Shop), Becky Owen (head of creator innovation & solutions), and Ryszard Sroka (creative strategist) – looked at how consumers use Instagram to engage in experiences and make purchases directly within the app.

The trio of Meta experts then spoke about how this transactional flow might work in the metaverse and how (eventually) the entire marketing and transactional process will happen within this digital space. You could experience a brand, find their products, shop for them, carry out the purchase, and obtain the item all within one fluid experience.

Along with the overall picture of the future metaverse, they also outlined the importance of brands finding their voice and personality within this digital world, rather than taking what they have in the physical world and simply creating a carbon copy of it in the metaverse.

Just existing in the metaverse won’t be enough

Wednesday’s session entitled ‘Future Leaders: What Does Leadership Look Like In the Digital Age?’ and hosted by Emily Trenouth (head of influencer marketing, Mediacom), looked at how the metaverse might work alongside other channels. One interesting angle the panel touched upon was how brands need to augment their experience within the metaverse to further appeal to consumers.

Hannah Thompson (group media director, Tug) compared this to how apps currently work – if there’s no value to the consumer for having your app installed on their phone, then why would they install it in the first place? This is going to be the same in the metaverse. Consumers will need a reason and an incentive to interact with a brand. Simply having a presence in this space will not be enough, especially when you consider the number of brands that will be fighting for our attention.

The metaverse will be epic

In most of the talks I attended, the metaverse was either compared or brought back to gaming, and how large gaming platforms like Fornite and Roblox are creating spaces that help us to understand what might be possible in the metaverse going forward.

It’s no surprise then that Epic was at Advertising Week hosting two packed-out sessions, exploring both the metaverse and creativity. Epic’s business development head, Rachel Stones, explored some interesting ideas while on stage with creative agency Imagination, including how they are making it easier for brands to enter Fortnite.

Having just partnered with WPP to enable brands to create their own experiences on the platform, Stones outlined the importance of testing and trialing 3D experiences today to understand what works for brands in these environments. “It’s about trying to be purposeful about what you do,” she noted, “ensuring you understand what you’re trying to achieve, whether it will add value as a small contained experience or a massive experience, and if the reason you’re doing it is going to have the outcome that you expect”.

The big takeaway from the session was that now is the time to be trialing these activations within gaming environments. If you wait, you’re only going to get left behind, or leave yourself open to a more innovative brand swooping in to acquire your customers.

The increasing importance of user-generated content

‘Who Owns the Metaverse: Diversity and Inclusion in Web 3.0’ was another interesting session exploring the future of advertising from a diversity angle. Hosted by Nick Bailey, CEO at Futurefactor, the panel looked at how the metaverse has the potential to democratize society, allowing people from marginalized backgrounds to tell their stories through a combination of creativity and tech.

The session also covered how the metaverse will offer new and emerging brands a chance to get in front of consumers in ways that were not possible in the past. Bei Wang (chief metaverse officer at Straight Fire), spoke about how today’s kids are growing up surrounded by user-generated content (UGC) – be that on Youtube, Roblox, Instagram, or TikTok – and that brands need to understand how to partner with these creators in ways that feel natural. As we move closer to the metaverse, UGC is going to become an increasingly important area for brands, who need to understand how to leverage it if they want to stay relevant.

An exciting dawn of the metaverse era

As you can see, the metaverse played a huge role in this year’s event, and seems to be a trend that is set to continue across the advertising industry, particularly if you look at many of the upcoming conferences happening over the rest of the year. The topic – much like the metaverse itself – seems to be building every day, with more unique and interesting predictions and technologies to get excited about. It will be interesting to see whether brands start to take this concept seriously and begin to think practically about their metaverse strategies, and in what ways they can prepare for what’s inevitably going to transform advertising as we know it.


Advertising Week
Advertising & Media