The photo above is of one half of the LBB editorial team having clearly a quite lovely time in the metaverse. Admittedly, we’re not sure that we quite nailed our avatars (apart from those fly blazers) but dodgy haircuts and unreasonably skinny jeans were not going to stop us from embracing our first voyage into digital infinity.
This particular metaverse is a bespoke built experience from Wunderman Thompson, who launched it in the midst of cancellations and attendees dropping out of CES earlier this month. The agency network took the concept of a hybrid event to the max, offering people the opportunity to learn all about the metaverse and its capabilities by actually (digitally) living it.
The metaverse, which was created in partnership Odyssey, was accessible from all browsers and required zero special hardware. It explored how virtual and physical realities can converge and the elements of the metaverse that will shape our future and change how we do business. It examined the meta-trends that impact consumers through the creation of MetaLives, MetaSpaces, MetaBusiness, and MetaSocieties. ‘Inspiration Kiosks’ were placed throughout the metaverse to give users contextual information about the experience and insight from Wunderman Thompson Intelligence’s recent report, ‘Into the Metaverse’.
To find out more about the process of building it, what they learned along the way, and how the metaverse can live on post-CES, LBB's Addison Capper spoke to Rachel Hogan, global marketing manager at Wunderman Thompson.
LBB> When / where did the idea to build first pop up? Was it in response to guests dropping out of CES or planned much before that?
Rachel> We started working with Odyssey for a previous event that needed to be virtual and created a beta version of the online space then. When CES came about, we anticipated that Covid might cause some issues for attendees and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to launch a bespoke Wunderman Thompson environment to talk about the metaverse in the metaverse.
LBB> What did you want to achieve with this experience? How did you go about planning it in a way that would educate your users on what the metaverse could really be?
Rachel> Our main goal of this experience was to bring the Wunderman Thompson brand to life. As a creative and technology agency, our focus was on what inspiration looks like in the metaverse. Wunderman Thompson’s previously released ‘Into the Metaverse’ report explored consumer behaviours, business models and brand opportunities that are emerging within this new online space. This report served as the initial inspiration for the overall design of our metaverse but was also an easy way to educate our users prior to participating in a controlled environment with familiar ‘faces’ who could offer help when needed.
LBB> How did planning and building this experience differ from planning an event in 'real' life?
Rachel> Safe to say this experience was quite different than an in-person event. For in-person events, we know exactly how every minute of our event will go; we have a confirmed list of attendees, and overall, we have a stronger feeling of control over the event. For this experience, we put a lot of time and thought into building Wunderman Thompson’s metaverse to look exactly how we wanted. Other than that, once people enter the space, we lose the control that’s typical of an in-person event. Even though we had carefully curated the experience we weren’t sure exactly how their experience might unfold. We weren’t sure who was going to attend or what conversations were going to be had. Ultimately, each individual user’s experiences in the metaverse could be different, but that is what made this experience so special.
LBB> Even though I’ve experienced it myself, give us a bit of a walkthrough of what you can do and what is happening in this WT metaverse. What can users interact with and learn?
Rachel> We used our ‘Into the Metaverse’ report as the basis for the user experience design. To begin, users can customise their avatars. We tried to make this first feature as detailed and accessible as possible, so each user felt like this was a curated experience. We then placed ‘Inspiration Kiosks’ throughout our metaverse to give users contextual information about the experience that highlighted key insights from our report. Additional interactive spaces included a retail shop where users could have their avatars virtually try-on clothing, a mini-gaming area we called ‘gamevertising’, and numerous communal spaces where users could interact with each other.
LBB> How did you actually build this? And why did you get Odyssey involved to help with the aspect?
Rachel> We started having conversations with Odyssey and their team at the end of November, and by the New Year, we had co-created our custom metaverse. Throughout the partnership, our Wunderman Thompson team conceptualised how we wanted our metaverse to look and proactively worked with the Odyssey team to bring this to life through their platform. Amazingly, their pixel streaming service made the metaverse environment accessible from any desktop device, even without immersive equipment.
LBB> What did you personally learn during the production process?
Rachel> Creating a bespoke metaverse is initially quite overwhelming given the limitless possibilities. We had to balance what we wanted each user’s experience to be, bringing Wunderman Thompson’s brand to life, making sure it was inspirational and pushing the boundaries of reality versus fantasy. Looking back now that we have had it up and running for a few weeks, I learned what users like, such as the retail space. And what users don’t interact with as much, such as navigating all the stairs. We will definitely make adjustments for future events!
LBB> And what did you learn from people interacting with the experience? Did any behaviours particularly surprise you?
Rachel> The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. In a time when some are feeling a lack of human connection, interacting with people in the metaverse showcases everyone’s personality in a way the typical video call can’t. Since everyone is experiencing this metaverse together as a ‘first’, I think people are more open to being vulnerable and having a laugh through this bonding experience.
LBB> I guess one good thing about this experience is that it can live on way past CES - it's something that you can show clients all year round from wherever they are. Is that right? How will you be using this moving forward?
Rachel> Yes, definitely! We are already seeing a large amount of interest in utilising the space, for example, client meetings taking place in our metaverse. We are using it for our company-wide staff meetings, smaller team meetings with members from around the world, onboarding sessions, bespoke WT events, pitches, client meetings and even interviews. We are working with the Odyssey team to integrate new, customisable features and more interactive areas that bring the Wunderman Thompson brand to life.
LBB> I think many people presume that to access the metaverse requires some kind of crazy hardware, but you've made this accessible in a regular internet browser. What conversations did you have around building your metaverse in this way?
Rachel> Odyssey made this easy with their pixel streaming service. This allows users to access the metaverse without a headset or controller. We had and are having lots of conversations around accessibility within the platform. The Odyssey team did a great job at being inclusive with the custom avatars, but we are working on going a step further with options such as: non-binary avatars, wheelchairs, closed captioning, etc.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
LBB> Proud - to be a part of a team that is pushing boundaries is rewarding. It’s becoming more evident that the virtual world is becoming a real factor not only in our personal lives but also within the workplace. To be at the forefront of what could be a future marketing platform is exciting and I’m eager to see what is going to happen with the metaverse in the future.