Brands and agencies are proving their commitment to the metaverse with the advent of the chief metaverse officer role—a position dedicated solely to researching and strategizing around virtual worlds.
Disney, Procter & Gamble, LVMH and the Creative Artists Agency have all appointed chief metaverse officers. Cathy Hackl leads consultancy Journey in the role and Publicis gave the title to a virtual lion named Leon, who has his own LinkedIn page and email address where he can field questions about virtual worlds.
Agencies are creating metaverse roles too—Publicis Media recently hired Katie Hudson as managing director of futurescapes in the group’s content and innovation practice, a team of roughly 1,000 that specialize in Web3 and metaverse technology. Other agencies like Metavision dedicate their whole business to virtual worlds.
But while agencies hire specialists and launch practices dedicated to the metaverse, many are still not entirely sure what it is, where people are spending meaningful time or how it will evolve in the future.
Even Meta, which bet the farm on the metaverse when it rebranded the business from Facebook in 2021, is questioning the metaverse’s future and the company’s role in developing it. Comments on Meta's 11,000-person layoff in an anonymous employee survey included “the metaverse will be our slow death” and “Mark Zuckerberg will single-handedly kill a company with the metaverse.”
People often use the terms ‘metaverse’ and ‘Web3’ interchangeably, but there is nuance. ‘Metaverse’ refers to virtual worlds where users can interact with each other and products, while ‘Web3’ is the broader concept of a decentralized internet built on technologies like the blockchain.
Experts believe that as the space develops, people will stop referring to the metaverse at all, and Web3 will become the dominant term.
The uncertainty around the metaverse’s future puts newly minted specialists in a precarious position—how much longer can they dedicate their careers to what might become a passing fad? (Remember the days of the chief mobile officer?)
Agency execs, however, see a place for these strategic minds at their companies, regardless of how the virtual landscape develops.
Those well-versed on the metaverse will be better at wrapping their brains around the next piece of emerging technology, said Isabel Perry, director of technology at Byte/Dept.
“Someone has to translate technology specs into something that can actually help solve clients’ problems,” she said. “With new technologies, it’s easy to list all of the things they can do rather than the problems they can solve. You have to have a mix of skill sets to achieve anything worth talking about.”
Perry developed her own tech translation skills by explaining to clients how automation can create assets cheaply and efficiently. Now, working on the metaverse, she’s versed in budgeting for research and development, breaking down realistic time frames to complete work and establishing the pros and cons of building vs. buying technology.
Metaverse strategists are also skilled at turning technical jargon into easily understandable business plans, as brands look to enter virtual worlds with longevity in mind, said Eric Levin, president and chief content officer at Publicis Media. Those who have worked on commerce-driven metaverse activations can apply the same principles to real-world campaigns, he added.
Leading clients onto untested platforms requires a strategic mind, which is crucial for a host of traditional agency roles, said Tim Dillon, SVP, real-time and virtual worlds at Media.Monks. Observing players in the metaverse also provides user experience knowledge that’s relevant for other gaming positions at agencies.
In April, Media.Monks created a campaign for Logitech for Creators that placed a motion-captured Lizzo into an award show in Roblox. Dillon pointed to the campaign as an example of how metaverse initiatives are becoming multifaceted, allowing those that oversee them to develop skills that translate into non-metaverse roles.
The Song Breaker Awards required “traditional strategy and creative work,” he said, adding that “virtualization” comes after that piece was already in place.
But while metaverse experts have strategy skills that can translate across agency roles, many won’t entirely escape the position without some baggage.
Some elements of metaverse expertise call for specific knowledge that translates to little else. For instance, building games in Roblox requires learning an esoteric programming language called Lure that’s used almost nowhere else, said Byte/Dept’s Perry.
Much of the jargon in the space is also so obscure that it doesn’t translate outside of metaverse-specific roles, said Publicis Media’s Levin.
Down the line, if Web3 does become the dominant term, having ‘metaverse’ in a job title could seem antiquated.
“I think that we would have a hard time taking seriously someone who might apply with a chief metaverse officer title,” Levin said. “I think it demonstrates a lack of understanding for what the bigger potential of Web3 actually holds.”