When it comes to Web3, agencies are prioritizing client and employee education and metrics to drive adoption to these decentralized applications.
Whether it’s cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens, metaverse platforms or games, players from Dentsu to Publicis have been establishing dedicated Web3 units to expand their offerings and for testing. Retail, auto, financial and pharmaceutical services are of particular interest. Now as agencies look ahead at the Web3 business opportunities with clients, they are creating roadmaps and safety standards to prepare themselves and their clients.
It makes sense given how many consumers still struggle to understand what Web3, or a vision of a decentralized internet, actually does or how to play in it. While people are interested and hopeful for Web3 to become mainstream, only 24% say they know what it means exactly, according to consumer insights firm Toluna. And of those, only 1% showed a good understanding of the concept, with 71% having partial understanding and 27% having poor understanding.
Increasing Web3 education
Major firms like Dentsu are starting with education and governance. Dentsu International on Thursday partnered with publisher Decrypt Media to launch its first Web3 Center of Excellence to provide learning programs for employees and clients. The center will focus on three pillars: educational partnerships, experimentation across new technology and platforms, and governance, the last of which concerns brand and consumer safety, intellectual property and creator ownership.
Dentsu is among the agency holding companies that have been testing through gaming and other services as a way to explore Web3 opportunities. For example, it experimented with experiences like virtual beer with client Heineken in virtual reality platform Decentraland. For Jeff Greenspoon, president of global solutions at Dentsu International, this is an important time to “step back” from the headlines surrounding Web3 to gain a better understanding and prepare for changes that these technologies may bring.
“If we’re going to believe in the change and transformation to Web3 over the next decade, we need to start building infrastructure around that — and it’s not just about the hype today,” Greenspoon told Digiday. “It’s not just about the latest technology or the newest experience that you can create.”
With the Web3 Center, Dentsu will pilot an executive virtual learning program offering Web3 training for some 60,000 associates worldwide across media, creative and customer experience management. The internal platform launched this week, with more than 20 types of learning materials — from case studies and playbooks to deep-dive hacks and lunch and learns. It will also provide training and support for clients on NFTs and metaverse strategies — many of them created with partners including Meta, Nvidia, Roblox and other NFT studios and producers.
Publicis Media has also worked with clients like Samsung, which put its flagship NYC store into Decentraland to create a footprint in the metaverse. Publicis has been building out its production, Web3 and APX content ventures to expand beyond linear television and ad-supported or ad-free environments. With Web3, the media agency conglomerate anticipates a “retraction period” after the hype, said Eric Levin, chief content officer at Publicis Media.
Levin added that the agency was bombarded with requests related to the metaverse from clients when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta in 2021. Publicis responded with client education, creating best practices around how to enter the metaverse meaningfully and giving more than 100 of these presentations to teams as well as clients.
“During these meetings, it became clear that the industry went from zero to a hundred overnight — and clients and consumers needed to be brought along in a way they could understand,” Levin said. “Initially, the space was far too complex and the barriers much too great for most, and we had to take a step back and show the how and the why.”
At this point, Levin said, Web3 usage and metrics are focused on social engagement. Eventually, Web3 content, experiences and commerce will become more integrated as the tech improves. Many VR headsets and other mixed reality or gaming devices are already available to consumers.
“But in talking to our partners, it’s very clearly on their roadmap,” Levin said. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve built our own proprietary metaverse stacks — to ensure we have thought of every possible scenario for clients and consumers as we build out a meaningful experience in the space.”
Publicis has also developed various Web3 resources for client education, tailored for both the clients that are brand new to the space and those trying to “push the envelope,” Levin said. The potential opportunities for creators, artists and developers is encouraging, he added, and Publicis is working on more entertainment experiences in the future.
Focusing on metaverse goals
Razorfish, an interactive agency in Publicis Groupe and corporate sibling to Publicis Media, recently added Web3 offerings that include creation, prototyping and execution of immersive metaverse experiences and products. Josh Campo, CEO of Razorfish, said that brands testing right now will have an advantage as adoption grows.
“With the metaverse still in its nascent stage, now is the time for brands to use it as a space for testing, learning and experimentation,” Campo said. “As user adoption grows in the years to come, they will have already identified the best paths to create brand experiences that reach their consumers in impactful ways.”
Other media and creative agencies are similarly working with clients to identify their Web3 goals — whether they’re more transactional through NFTs or finding broader objectives in the metaverse. Trigger XR, a full-service mixed reality agency, said its clients are exploring full-scale retail experiences that can combine brand and performance marketing or give existing customers additional value in the metaverse.
“What they need to know is that NFTs and blockchain are only used for programs with a core transactional focus,” said Jason Yim, founder and CEO of Trigger XR. “Blockchain-gated destinations or NFTs aren’t recommended for traditional marketing campaigns because of the friction involved, which is usually too high a deterrent to overcome for the everyday consumer.”
Yim contends that metaverse solutions for promotional and marketing campaigns are worth the investment. Using augmented reality and other metaverse components, brands can build physical and digital assets to potentially reach some 6.6 billion smartphones globally, according to Statista.
“Immersive metaverse experiences can have much longer engagement times, but would still need a platform like Roblox with a massive audience and engagement numbers to provide value,” he said.
But even the giants aren’t without reservations when it comes to Web3. After all, many decentralized concepts and Web3 platforms remain unproven, said Dentsu’s Greenspoon. However, this is an emerging area that Dentsu and others will continue to bet on, while balancing the immersive experiences and technologies with what clients are seeking.
“We need to make sure that we’re picking and choosing the right ones to test and learn,” Greenspoon said. “Bets are being placed right now and we’re going to continue to place our bets, but we’re also recognizing that we’re going to live in a hybrid world for a long time. Not everything is going to jump from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 overnight.”