What Yahoo's creative studio lead has learnt so far on embracing the metaverse

As Yahoo Finance debuts its new augmented reality / NFT experience with Future Art, its creative studios leader talks through the new and not-so new learnings for brands embracing Web 3.0 and the metaverse

Reframing your approach from brand to community will be critical if marketers are to make the most of the opportunities emerging through the metaverse.

That’s the view of Yahoo head of innovation and Creative Studios, Zoe Cocker, who caught up with CMO last week to talk through the media company’s latest Future Art partnership and Web 3.0 campaign as part of this year’s Vivid Festival.

Yahoo has collaborated with three crypto artists – Em! Serwah Attafuah and Coldie – to create a series of original NFTs for a series called ‘Future Shock’. To bring the artwork to life, Yahoo created 3D imagery using augmented reality (AR) to allow consumers to interact and explore the works.

The art was on show as part of the ‘Future Art is Vivid’ event at Home The Venue on 27 May, one of several experiential activities staged on the opening night of this year’s Vivid Festival. The event also included immersive shows, live music, theatre performance, AR/VR lounges and a cocktail bar. The Future Art is Vivid event was put together by crypto art curators, Sats Moon and Potbelleez producer and DJ, Dave Goode.

With the rising topic of metaverse and interest in the technology Web 3.0 unlocks, Cocker said Yahoo’s creative team has been dialling up its own immersive efforts as it also educates clients on how to activate in a meaningful way.

“This metaverse evolution is about to change everything we have built on the Internet. So as I said to Yahoo, why not be client number one and be proactive about it?” Cocker said. “We decided to explore the technology ourselves so when we go to clients, we not only have global but local cases, autonomy, vendors and partners, and we can speak authentically to our client base.”

It’s a win/win from a B2C perspective too, Cocker said. “As an originator of the Internet, we have to innovate or die. We innovated for the last two decades following the trends of Web 2.0, whether it’s ecommerce or social. What better time than to do this around Vivid, when you get all this consumer attention,” she said.

In the case of the ‘Future Shock’ campaign, Yahoo’s campaign is rooted in real life and bridges Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 using AR.

“It hits our consumer objectives, brings in the younger audience who stumble through Vivid and consumer comms, but also shows client that we can build in this new space and be pointy with the innovation we bring to market,” Cocker said.  “The digital experience consumers are now expecting is far higher than any marketer is hitting on the head at the moment. We have ability to leverage our own tech to turn assets into 3D AR, served in an omnichannel way.”

Partnership was another critical component of the campaign. “One insight we captured early on in working in the NFT and creator space is you have to enter this authentically. Just like any other world, you wouldn’t start to tell Banksy how to do graffiti,” Cocker explained. “We needed someone who understood art world in the NFT space and these guys [Future Art] are curators in this space.”

Cocker stressed the importance of local and female artists in the mix given crypto is quite male dominated. “We wanted to also empower creators and onboard artists to speak to that topic,” she said.

A community take on the metaverse

Yahoo is among number of brands taking steps forward towards the metaverse, using fresh capabilities like NFTs as well as mixed reality as part of its approach. As Cocker explained it, the metaverse is the next phase of the Internet, enabled by a new layer of technologies (Web 3.0). She said it’s critical brands start educating themselves and take steps towards this new world.

But rather than just be focused on the ‘new’, Cocker urged marketers to look at this from the perspective of what they already know of consumer connection through the early days of social.

“The social Web is a great way of looking backwards to understand what is coming,” she said. “I remember having the same conversations, the same question marks, naysayers versus believers and visionaries eight to 10 years ago with e-sport or 15 years ago with Instagram. It’s all happening again with this new lens.

“We have been given a new platter to build our own buffet. But it was exactly the same with social Web. How do we insert ourselves into a world where two friends are having a catch up in a meaningful way? And how do we measure it?

“Think of the social Web and what steps you took to have meaningful conversations on Facebook 20 years ago, and let’s do the same things now. Let’s not just wait for someone else to do it better.”

However, this doesn’t mean brands have to build a whole space within one of the early Web 3.0 virtual worlds, such as Decentraland, tomorrow.

“You just have to start planning. What does Web 2.1 look like for you? What do your consumers want from you? All the same marketing principles apply. Build for them,” Cocker advised. “Do they want better experiences? Yes. Do they want them more tactile? Yes. Do they want to have a more valuable exchange and relationship? Yes. Do they want better value for the data they’re giving you? Yes.  So how do you do that? There are these great tools like 3D, loyalty systems – all this tech is coming up and it’s so vast, you can have meaningful Web 3.0 technology into your planning.”

At the same time, Cocker warned brands against trying to control the medium and the message – another hard-won learning from social media. The base premise of the metaverse is a decentralised way of operating, allowing people the opportunity to build on top of any experience you create “like Lego bricks”, she said.

“You have to relinquish control almost as soon as you enter the door. I understand why brands are so cagey about it,” Cocker said. “But rather than see that as a blocker, how do you reframe it to see it as an opportunity? If every experience is built by experience from a community, how do you build the community first, then ask them to work on your behalf to build something meaningful?

“Before you start asking how you are going to build an automotive AR experience, roll back and look at why. What is the insight you came up with and feel there are enough people in the world that would find that meaningful or adding value? That lens immediately helps brands think there is still a place for me in the conversation but that they need to reframe it from the community’s perspective.”

Brands as a facilitator is a meaningful approach in the metaverse for Cocker – and again, a lesson all marketer should have learnt from social media.

“But we lost our way and overly commercialised the whole thing. I’m not going to say that won’t happen again [with the metaverse] – I don’t have a crystal ball,” she said.  

“What is amazing about these Web 3.0 communities is you put an idea out there and you see this groundswell of people who feel part of the excitement. If you’re a chocolate brand, set up a community to ask what chocolate or confectionary mean in a virtual space – get the community to ideate, test and learn for you.

“We are still talking about humans after all, we’re just talking about humans interacting in a new space and way.”

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