The volume of conversations in social around the metaverse, web3, NFTs and crypto has erupted over the last 6 months. These themes are all closely related but definitions and the inter-relations differ dependent on who you talk to. Inevitably, as seems to be the norm in social, there is a huge chasm between those who believe these developments will be world-changing and those that dismiss this technology evolution outright.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that as Bill Gates famously said, “we overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term and under-estimate the effect in the long run.” Will we all be walking around with a VR unit attached to our head? Unlikely. But re-frame this to; does the internet need “fixing” as the forefather of the www, Tim Berners-Lee called for on the web’s 30th birthday in 2019? And the answer is likely a resounding yes.

Whilst Berner-Lee’s 2019 reset predominantly revolved around a utopian view that the internet should go back to being “open” to all, encourage easy access, diversity and protect consumer privacy, it perhaps misses the reality that those in the ad industry face up to every day. The platformisation of the web, and the frightening monopolies that GAFA have over practically every other corporation and over society. In its simplest terms, web3 promises decentralisation – a shift of control from the dominant platforms and banking giants and the ability for the user to port and connect their identity/assets between different platforms/worlds through a tokenised economy. To date, many entrepreneurs have sought to tackle the issue of personal data (value) and privacy by promising control and monetisation, but none have worked. Many would argue that Web3 will bake privacy into its DNA and return control to the creators, allowing for value to be created together by networks.

The beauty of the industry we all work in is that we unite math and magic, and technology with creativity. Today, there is still a huge chasm between the real-world experience of a brand and its digital experience – few have been able to seamlessly integrate these worlds. Could web3 bring the possibilities and tools for brands to not just connect these two realms, but also build a brand entirely from digital roots up? The rise of Direct-to-Consumer brands building their marketing bottom up, starting with ecommerce and then layering in retail as added distribution, could already be viewed as a step in this direction. Will we see a growing number of brands that are founded in this new virtual world and then transverse into the physical world?

Right now, many are obsessing over the fraud in Non-fungible Tokens (NFT) marketplaces rather than seeing the potential for brands to harness a new stream of brand identity and expression. After all, was it any different in the early days of eBay auctions? Today, e-commerce is unsurprisingly very transactional both in function but also the flatness of the digital experience. The world’s biggest FMCG brands have historically built success through immersive brand experience from ads through to packaging. Could web3 also be that bridge for web and mobile needs to deliver immersive, experiential commerce where the brand experience and the logistics of buying and delivery are equal? DTC brands are largely one dimensional and functional which suits this e-commerce period, but the metaverse may well swing back in favour of those who know how to build brands and create fans of consumers.