Ocean Outdoor’s clients will be able to advertise on digital billboards in video games and the metaverse after the outdoor company secured a partnership with in-play advertising firm Admix.
The move will allow brands to buy digital out-of-home placements both in the physical and virtual worlds at the same time, providing brands with incremental reach to millions of gamers.
There has been growing hype about how brands can play in the so-called "metaverse", which Facebook recently signalled as its new major focus (changing its parent name to Meta); and other media owners, including ITV, are exploring opportunities for advertisers.
For now, this largely involves plays in established virtual world games like Roblox, which has 220 million monthly active users; Sandbox, which recently sold a plot of virtual real estate for $4.3m; and Somnium Space, an immersive space where users can purchase digital land and build games and experiences within it.
Proponents of the partnership told Campaign it blends the physical and virtual worlds, combining Admix’s In-Play technology and Ocean Outdoor UK’s expertise in DOOH campaigns and brand partnerships.
Ocean’s first foray into the metaverse will feature digital replicas of three bespoke DOOH locations that are similar in design and scale to its premium city centre UK assets, including a tri-screen roadside location, a giant curve screen full motion location (modelled on a Westfield screen) and The Loop city centre full motion network in Manchester and Birmingham.
Further down the track, Ocean Labs plans to run brand-led experiences in the metaverse.
Ocean Outdoor UK joint managing director Phil Hall told Campaign it will be the first time its clients will be able to align their physical digital outdoor placements with virtual.
“I’d describe it as a digital out-of-home play in-home,” he said. “Just imagine you are walking along a road or in a shopping centre and you see billboards advertising Coca-Cola, then when you are gaming, your avatar is walking down a virtual road and it would show the same copy.
“We can now go to brands and say ‘do you want to advertise on a digital screen out of home and in home at the same time?’”
Admix chief executive and co-founder Samuel Huber described the partnership with Ocean Outdoor UK as “a watershed moment for the advertising industry, creating realistic ad experiences that merge physical and virtual worlds for the very first time”.
He added: “The metaverse is the perfect playground for Ocean’s creativity and its customers are making a symbolic step that will mark them out as pioneers of a new form of advertising which has unlimited reach.
"Of course, this is just the beginning: there will be dozens of ways for brands to engage consumers in the metaverse and Admix aims to be the gateway for brands to help shape the future of digital experiences for their audiences.”
Brands will be able to create experiences, such as fashion houses, on platforms like Roblox.
A new channel for outdoor
For Ocean Outdoor, the in-game play opens up a new and potentially lucrative advertising channel to the DOOH market, which is forecast to be worth $50bn by 2026.
Importantly, it provides the additional opportunity to reach gamers – younger audiences that are regarded as more challenging for brands to find.
“I say to my sales team that it is like we have added a whole load of new cities. Not only can brands be active in London, Manchester or Birmingham, but they can now be active in Roblox, Sandbox and other virtual cities,” Hall added.
“Admix currently is selling through exchanges and provides the ability to have brands on digital billboards that are rectangular and have a brand message superimposed. As games become more sophisticated we want to explore how we can transpose real life outdoor creativity into the virtual world.”
There are three ways Ocean Outdoor clients will be able to buy DOOH space in the virtual world.
They can purchase standalone Ocean Outdoor inventory at certain sites and within certain games. Ocean will also sell real world and virtual world packages. This may include, for example, a screen at a Westfield shopping centre, a DOOH billboard in Nottingham and virtual billboards in Sandbox.
The final offering will be experiential, where brands can create experiences and areas that consumers’ avatars can walk around and interact with in a virtual environment.
A hypothetical example might be a House of Gucci, where gamers can walk in and experience a virtual fashion show, look at virtual products through e-commerce websites, mirroring offline experiences in online environments.