It's a Brave New (Virtual) World...
Updated: May 26
Last week we hosted an event for our senior client community about Web3, the Metaverse and NFTs (non-fungible tokens, if you’re Rip Van Winkle and have been lucky enough to hide in a cave for the past few years). NFT was the Collins dictionary word of the year in 2021 and there are over 25,000 and 50,000 tweets per hour using the hashtag “NFT” on Twitter!
As communicators we’ve all felt the presence of this new virtual world impress itself on us ever more keenly over the past 12 months or so, expedited by the rebranding of Facebook to Meta. But most of us aren’t sure how important it is yet, or how to incorporate it into comms plans.
Digital media consultant Paul Sutton kindly lent us his time and insights to talk about the internet and what this next phase of evolution means for brands, whether you’re in b2b or b2c comms. We discussed where we’ve come from, where we are now - and where we MIGHT be going (Spoiler: we all agreed our kids are already at home there - immersed in Roblox and Minecraft).
NFTs are the new hot ticket in popular culture, with many celebrities investing heavily in NFTs and also creating NFTs to build their own brands. Snoop Dogg now has a vibrant home in the metaverse. Madonna, Quentin Tarantino and the Bored Ape Yacht Club have all created NFTs, most of them on OpenSea.
This domination by the arts and music industry to date means many people think NFTs are synonymous with digital art (& gorillas).
Paul explained that NFTs are not just visual. This is just where they’ve started and are taking off. It’s all about the utility - the many and varied ways in which an NFT can be used, depending on how it has been programmed during the creation (‘minting’) process.
Other ways include governance (for example, for voting). You could also use them for sporting or music events, by giving away NFTs which hold the key (access) to a virtual or a real event which unlocks special branded content and promotions to augment fanclub propositions.
In terms of the global move to remote / hybrid working, we may see companies embrace web3 to create dynamic virtual working environments, inside which employees can access town halls and other smaller exclusive events using NFTs, as well as form mini communities.
As digital assets, NFTs are paid for in cryptocurrency - usually ethereum. Unlike traditional currency which is highly regulated and subject to international law, crypto is unregulated. Trading in the digital universe black hole is like the Wild West. Despite there being an online ledger of every crypto purchase ever made, it’s ridiculously high risk.
While $22bn have been spent on NFTs to date, approximately $146m has been stolen in crypto.
It’s also very bad for the planet.
So, NFTs are still relatively new assets but they’re already tarnished with crypto’s tawdry brush. It’s estimated that 80% of NFTs on OpenSea are fake. As you can now be anyone on the internet, there are serious concerns about ethics in terms of AI/deep fake tech, and marketing to children on Web3 gaming platforms. Responsible marketing to children is something which our ‘kidtech’ client Super Awesome (owned by Epic Games, makers of Fortnite) is taking extremely seriously.
As communicators, how can we square entering such a premature, volatile and risky market with the need for our brands to be at marketing’s cutting edge?
Paul believes that while we need to accept that the metaverse is evolving rapidly, it’s still a nascent area and much of it is still about the tech and the developers. That community is growing up fast and there are some talented players and agencies who can help create Web3 websites and digital assets including NFTs (speak to me for recommendations).
He recommends that we educate ourselves while taking a “wait and see” approach. What’s important today is being able to speak with confidence to executives who may be hearing the buzzwords and want to understand their relevance to comms and to the organisation.
Want to keep learning about this brave new world? Paul is running Digital Download Live on 22nd September in London featuring web3, the metaverse, NFTs, digital advertising and TikTok. Expect an intimate affair of presentations, interactive Q&As, workshops & discussion. Limited numbers only; George & I have already got our tickets & you can buy yours at: www.ddl22.com
Credit to www.chapplecartoons.co.uk for the vibrant graphic record of our lively debate.