Metaverse at Cannes—marketers show off virtual worlds on the Croisette –

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The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity may be in person this year for the first time since 2019, but that hasn’t stopped brands and agencies from thinking virtual. Not only are some marketers making Cannes sessions available in virtual real estate platforms, but parties and activities outside of the normal programming are also being offered in the metaverse. 
A common theme running through many of these activations is democratizing what has hitherto been an inaccessible event for many in the industry. The ticket price for Cannes is steep, not to mention fees for transportation and a hotel. But through virtual experiences, which can be accessed from anywhere using only a desktop or sometimes a mobile phone, more of adland can celebrate creativity in the industry.
Of course, not all the metaverse activations at Cannes are designed specifically with this goal in mind, yet the democratizing effect is still there. Marketers may be realizing that the virtual tools they use to reach consumers can also help them reach each other.
Here are some of the ways that marketers are activating in the metaverse during Cannes.
The agency unveiled “MWverse,” a virtual gallery that will house McCann Worldwide’s most memorable ad campaigns of the year. During Cannes, guests are able to access 10 rooms, each dedicated to one campaign, revealing a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the ads and pre-taped discussions by leaders of their creative teams, who will appear as virtual avatars. 
The experience was created with virtual tech company Journee and Meta’s Horizon Workrooms platform. After Cannes, the gallery will evolve into an experimental space for McCann’s clients, whether that be for meetings, building new campaigns or hosting events.
Another agency activation came from Wunderman Thompson, which launched “Inspiration Beach” in order to reach audiences who were not able to attend Cannes in person. Built with metaverse platform Odyssey, the beach features collaboration spaces, a lounge area and showcase of the agency’s best work. A shopping space and DJ booth will appear in the activation later this week.
“Inspiration Beach” takes its name from “inspiration kiosks” that will exist in various areas of the digital landscape, each dedicated to an industry theme, including sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, and data and technology.
A yacht party off the coast of Cannes isn’t the most accessible event, so VaynerX is using the metaverse to include anyone from around the world. The media company will host a “metaverse beach club party” on June 23 that will coincide with its physical party on the Mediterranean Sea, with a livestream of the real DJ to be played in the digital event.
VaynerX teamed with recruiting company Hidden and virtual platform Voxels, and will seek to raise awareness for non-profit Creative Spirit, whose mission is to create integrated employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Anyone who attends the yacht party or VaynerX’s sessions at Cannes will receive a free POAP (proof-of-attendance protocol) NFT.
In another example of democratizing the experience of attending Cannes, Meta recreated the scenic landscape of the French Riviera in a world called “Cloud Island,” where visitors can play volleyball as virtual avatars or simply take in the view. Meta also announced new partnerships with guitar-maker Fender and car company Mini, both of which unveiled virtual experiences in Horizon Worlds (also the home of “Cloud Island”).
Lowe’s debuted at Cannes a library of virtual items called “Lowe’s Open Builder,” which consumers can use in virtual worlds. The products include furniture, rugs, lighting and kitchen and bath accessories—essentially mirroring the brand’s business inventory in the real world. These items are interoperable, meaning they can be used in a variety of different platforms, from those that require NFTs (i.e. Decentraland and The Sandbox) to those that don’t (i.e. Roblox). Lowe’s also released a line of virtual apparel for avatars, such as hardhats and boots that exist as NFTs.
Software development company Niantic Labs, the maker of Pokémon Go, has an entire slate of AR-powered experiences available to attendees at Cannes. Those with a mobile phone are able to participate in a scavenger hunt with an AR yeti named Captain Doty; use Niantic’s Viewfinder platform to experience the city of Cannes layered with information about the city, animation and content; fly the Niantic ARship (an AR-powered hot air balloon); display NFTs on real screens at an in-person happy hour; and more.
“Equality Lounge,” a women’s networking forum meant for conversations about gender equality, has appeared at events all over the world and made its first appearance in the metaverse during Cannes. The Female Quotient, which created the forum, hosted it in-person and on virtual platform Decentraland. The company officially owns land in Decentraland, The Sandbox and NFT World, and will use these spaces to form a hub for creating equality in Web3.
The debut coincides with the release of a report at Cannes by The Female Quotient and talent management company EWG Unlimited that captured the reactions, motivations and needs of women in Web3. The report found that while 75% of women have heard of the metaverse only 30% are truly familiar with it, and 43% of women ages 18 to 34 want to enter the space. 
In this article:
Asa Hiken is a technology reporter covering digital marketing, social media platforms and innovation. A graduate of Northwestern University, he joined Ad Age after writing for Marketing Dive, where he focused on the alcohol space and digital privacy.