Cannes is finally here, and in the metaverse no less! I have my brand new AR glasses, customised by the festival to fit me perfectly and they look stylish. It’s about time the technology has evolved - the glasses aren't too clunky, the sound quality is amazing, and they look great too.
My smartwatch automatically syncs and now the glasses can sense how I move my hands. I log into the Festival to see who’s here. I can't wait to see their avatars. This year, I wanted to look more human and, since this is a virtual Cannes, I am dressed head-to-toe in French Riviera haute couture. I can totally pull off the look with my avatar now that I’m blissfully relieved from the cost of actual designer clothes and the sweat stains that accompany the sweltering heat of the Côte d'Azur.
As soon as I log in, I’m greeted by a hologram avatar of José Miguel Sokoloff, our CCO who was chosen as our customised host. His actual avatar should be around here somewhere...(the hologram avatar is just a bot). The José hologram avatar is also telling me about the schedule for today and handing me a (virtual) piece of paper to take with my (virtual) hands, so I'll have the agenda with me. As I look down, I also see there’s a button to change it into a map with the stages and places I can go to check out the different events around the Festival. Venues like the Palais are recreated in all their glory, with some extras you can only add in the virtual world like boards at each entrance that welcome you individually. One of the benefits of doing this in the virtual space is that we’re not limited by distances or even height – I notice the parties are under our ‘feet’, but the client lounges are up in the (virtual) clouds. We’re not actually in Cannes, after all, and this is much easier to navigate than the real-world setting.
I see Deadmau5 is playing tonight, and I’ll be in the front row. Music has become integral to the Festival with access and sound quality almost better than the real thing. At the iconic bar at the Martinez, space doesn’t seem to be an issue – another benefit of the metaverse. I wonder what else is planned for the parties and the after-parties, and the after-after parties… And yes, I did receive my swag bag from the organisers, so I do have a couple of bottles of rosé with gold lions on the label and some food bites to make it a full experience. The wine glass has a microchip that syncs automatically with my headset, and I can see the wine glass in my glasses! Very cool – makes it much easier to drink. I love how the technology is getting more practical, rather than just showy.
Networking is easier in the Cannes metaverse, even for introverts! I don’t need to know who everyone is, because their name and company appears in front of them when I look in their direction. In the metaverse I will never not recognise the right person again! And the name feature is very handy, especially when people pick avatars that don’t even vaguely resemble what they look like in real life.
Everything is so convenient; I use my finger to select the talks and the networking events I want to attend. I’m waiting for my friend Michael who just logged in – I got a ping from my ‘Festival Friends’ board telling me he was online so I sent him a pin of where I’m hanging out at the virtual festival. I faintly hear announcements that I know I can make louder with the push of a virtual button, but they’re probably just asking us to head to the virtual ‘Palais des Festivals’.
Michael arrives, we press the icon for the Palais and find ourselves swiftly transported to the auditorium. As we fly over to the Palais, we get a view of La Croisette and the beach restaurants, marking the places we can land on later. More networking opportunities once we’re done at the Palais.
At the Festival, we’re encouraged to collect ‘Cannes Coins’ we can spend around the Festival – the organisers want us to attend the award shows and their workshops and for each event we receive a virtual coin for attending; we can exchange the coins for other items later on, a new designer purse for my avatar perhaps? The virtual swag is fun, and for each interaction, we can rate the experience with a happy or unhappy face.
Once seated at the Palais, I look down to see the control panel in front of me. I can zoom in and out to view the awards show closer, hear the presenters and winners more clearly, and even vote for the audience favourites out of the winners. A Gold Lion has just been awarded to another agency (not mine!) but I check the leaderboard for my agency to see how well we’re doing. We’ll hopefully win more awards and maybe even a Grand Prix or Titanium Lion later today.
I love this industry – we’re such suckers for tradition, but we love being at the cutting edge of what’s happening in society and technology. This first Cannes in the metaverse has been good, but it could be even better. While the platform is great for attending award shows and virtual meet-and-greets, it doesn't seem like the industry knows how to really exploit the technology and the metaverse yet. I had expected more opportunities to immerse myself in the winning work and really explore the themes of the Festival. I also expected a richer avatar experience with more use and availability of virtual versions of the advertisers' products. The event shows how far the ad industry has come in the metaverse, and how far it has yet to go.
My virtual glass of rosé is empty, so that’s all for now! I want to chat with Michael and decide where to go next.
Adieu de Cannes (and from my home-office in New York)!