AdColony’s Tom Simpson on NFTs; Meta’s Metaverse; and Niantic

On this week’s episode of TheMadTech Podcast, Tom Simpson, SVP, APAC, at AdColony, joins ExchangeWire's Mat Broughton and Lindsay Rowntree to discuss the latest news in media, marketing, and commerce.


This week they cover:

- Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) could become a
USD $56bn revenue opportunity for the luxury market by 2030, according to Morgan Stanley. The forecast, published by the investment banking giant in a research note last week, would represent a 10% share of the sector’s revenue if achieved. 

The projected growth could occur as a result of the proliferation of the metaverse, a virtual space where users interact with one another via customisable avatars. Acknowledging that the metaverse “will likely take many years to develop”, the analysts behind the note said that “NFTs and social gaming offer two nearer-term opportunities for luxury brands.”

Morgan Stanley also predict that the NFT market could grow to a value of USD $240bn by the next decade, with luxury brands making up 8% of the total NFT market (up from the 1% transaction value it’s estimated that they currently account for). The virtual shopping experiences already available on gaming platforms like Roblox and Fortnite give an idea of what shopping in the metaverse might look like, with luxury brands such as Balenciaga and Gucci already taking advantage of selling virtually. The analysts anticipate that many more will seize this opportunity, particularly as the metaverse could allow brands to earn in “perpetuity”.


- Facebook’s incoming CTO Andrew Bosworth has outlined plans for how the social media giant can moderate their version of the metaverse. The company’s current plan is to record all goings on within the metaverse (with the footage stored on individual users’ headsets) and allow people to block other users and report bad behaviour on the platform. When an incident is reported, several minutes of footage will be sent for assessment by the company’s human reviewers. Users will also be able to retreat to a “personal safety zone”, withdraw from others via a personal “bubble”, and request that a safety specialist invisibly monitor a potentially threatening situation.

Despite saying that the firm want “almost Disney levels of safety”, Bosworth conceded that policing users’ behaviour and interactions within the space “at any meaningful scale is practically impossible,” and that virtual reality can be a “toxic environment” in an internal memo sent to colleagues last March. However, the Reality Labs boss said that Facebook should use their current community guidelines as a basis for moderating the new space, and indicated that as metaverse users will have a single account with Facebook’s recently-renamed holding company, Meta, it will be possible to block offenders across all proprietary platforms.

Critics have expressed their scepticism that controlling the billions of interactions expected to take place across the sprawling virtual space will even be possible (not least for Facebook’s formerly eponymous holding co, who have a poor record of containing and removing harmful content from their existing platforms). Commentators point out that the measures outlined are reactive and not preventative, and say that Facebook could use new AI technologies to pick up on dangerous behaviour more quickly. Another says that the firm should implement a screening process for developers like those in place on Apple’s App Store. A Facebook spokesperson has said that moderating the metaverse “won’t be the job of any one company alone. It will require collaboration across industry and with experts, governments, and regulators to get it right.”


- Augmented reality company Niantic unveiled their first brand campaign, dubbed “Meet You Out There”, last week. The two-minute video, which was created by Gravity Road, portrays human gamers within a hybrid world that’s made up of reality and the metaverse. Initially released as a viewable in-game feature for players of Niantic’s inaugural title, Ingress, the campaign is set to be issued across the US via a multimedia campaign. 

A key emphasis within the campaign is the importance of going outdoors and interacting in real-world settings, something which the Pokemon GO creator considers particularly important. “Niantic products encourage our global community to get outside, explore, and connect with one another. This brand campaign — our first-ever — celebrates our mission and global community” said Archit Bhargava, director of worldwide product marketing, in a statement. Elsewhere, Bhargava said that the company’s “three pillars are exploration, exercise and real world connection. [...] AR can serve this purpose of enhancing our outdoor experiences”.

Founded 9 years ago by a team that spun out from what would later become Google Earth, Niantic wanted to use their expertise in building digital maps to create games that would encourage activity and exploration. Due to their focus on bringing virtual reality to the outdoors, they don’t consider themselves a typical gaming company, and sought to use their debut campaign to promote their unique mission. “There is so much about the metaverse that is dark, dystopian and scary and negative,” commented Mark Boyd, co-founder of Gravity Road. “But what Niantic talks about is the possibility. The film is the antithesis of people being stuck in a dark room. It’s a rallying cry to get outside and experience the world.”