Meta shared a timeline for its rollout of the metaverse at a recent Zoom meeting with advertising agency executives, who said the futuristic vision resembled Snapchat.
On Thursday, Meta agency and marketing representatives held the presentation with dozens of leaders from advertising agencies to start the conversation about the metaverse, a concept the company staked its future on when it rebranded from Facebook last year. Ad execs, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not cleared to discuss the meeting publicly, said that one name seemed to pop up more than others: Snapchat.
Meta's team pointed to Snapchat's augmented reality products to illustrate that brands and consumers already are using metaverse-type technology. Meta also built AR into Facebook and Instagram, but Snapchat has widely been credited with jumpstarting its proliferation through playful lenses in the app. In the meeting, Meta's reps told brands to think about AR experiences as the first "on-ramp" to the eventual metaverse, which ultimately would encompass more than filters on phones. Meta's team told marketers to experiment with mixed reality, blending AR and the real world.
“They mentioned Snapchat a couple of times in the session,” said one of the attendees. “They asked if, ‘You guys are familiar with Snap Lenses.’”
Snapchat has steadily built its platform based on augmented reality. It also has experimental Spectacles, which combine AR and video recording within sunglasses. Meanwhile, Meta launched Ray-Ban Stories Smart Glasses last year.
Meta’s point for hosting the meeting was to highlight what’s possible now with technology that is tangential to what the ultimate metaverse could become.
Agency attendees said the meeting was led by Asher Rapkin, Meta’s director of global business marketing; Bianca Bradford, Meta’s director of agency North America; and Jason Dailey, Meta’s director of agency partner manager. The Meta team did not discuss paid advertising.
Meta declined to comment for this story.
The point of mentioning Snapchat’s Lenses was to show that there already is a budding awareness of the types of technology that will make up parts of the metaverse. Snap has said 200 million people play with AR filters daily, and the features range from digital artwork to face-altering effects, to wearable digital sneakers. Meta's representatives noted that millions of consumers already interacted with AR on apps, including Instagram, without even knowing they are experimenting with technology that is associated with the metaverse, agency execs said. AR has been growing in popularity with Google, Amazon, Apple, TikTok, Pinterest and others playing with products and services in the space.
Meta's team discussed how the company has committed $150 million to digital artists to seed its platforms with augmented reality. Rapkin mentioned the possibilities of walking through Herald Square in New York City and getting a notification about an augmented reality art exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit could be seen through AR-enabled glasses.
Meta's team also talked about virtual reality in Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, where there will be events like concerts and sports, "as well as creators being the conduit to exploring what AR can look like today," said an agency exec who was in the meeting.
“As agencies, the strategic value that you could provide to clients is to not restrict the thinking about the types of possible applications,” another agency exec said about the advice from Meta's team. “Don’t get caught up trying to force the way products and processes are set up in current mediums. Think about totally new opportunities.”
The ad meeting showed that Meta is concerned that brands won’t know what to do with AR and VR, yet. And the company also needed to deliver brands some understanding of what Meta is building, since it ditched the name Facebook. There has been confusion about whether Facebook rebranded in order to shed an old image and the baggage that came with it, or whether it was a strategy that could lead to the next-generation internet.
“They’ve lost young people,” said one of the agency execs who attended the meeting. “They need to innovate. They can’t acquire anyone to innovate anymore (because of regulators). This is a big bet on innovation.”
Meta’s team pointed out that brands like Disney and Gucci have generated headlines with announcements about metaverse projects, suggesting marketers should ask the brands what they mean by the “metaverse.” In Meta’s version, the company has software and hardware to build a place that consumers will visit virtually. Disney and Gucci are building digital experiences, but the metaverse has to be “somewhere,” one agency exec said, recalling the description from Meta’s reps.
Just this week, Disney created a new position for a leader of its metaverse strategy. The company has been exploring theme parks in virtual reality, and more. Meanwhile, Gucci has brought luxury digital fashion to metaverse games. Gucci also built an online venue it calls Vault, and described it as “worlds within worlds, rooms within rooms, like nothing you’ve ever seen,” in a Twitter thread on Friday.
Meta hopes to bring the metaverse to people by bringing the price of Quest VR devices to below $100, agency execs said. Quest 2, the product that Meta promoted in a Super Bowl commercial this year, starts at $299. Meta's timeline was still fuzzy, though, for when it would reach various points along the journey to the metaverse. Meta leaders have not said when AR glasses would achieve enough technological advancement to project the digital creations in people's immediate surroundings. Meta's representatives did not say exactly when VR devices would cost less than $100, and how many people would adopt them.