Facebook/Meta’s New Metaverse Commercials: Is There a Method to Meta’s Madness in Their Current Advertising Campaign?

I first heard about Facebook (now Meta)’s new metaverse commercials via the following tweet by Andrew Woodberry:

This Meta ad ran during tonight’s Notre Dame vs. UVA football game. I’m not even sure Meta knows what “the metaverse” is.

If you happen to have missed this commercial, as I did, and in case you’re curious, here’s the advertisement in full, via the official Meta channel on YouTube:

What is notable about this commercial is that it is not promoting a specific Meta hardware product or platform; it is promoting the idea of the metaverse (and using some surprisingly acid-trip visuals!).

As I predicted, Facebook (sorry, Meta!) is spending a small portion of its billions of dollars in earnings to do a little public relations: to try and implant the idea among the general public that Meta now a metaverse company; and to attempt to distance itself from the now-tarnished Facebook brand.

Here’s another ad in the current campaign (at least this one is for an actual product, the newly-rechristened Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as the Oculus Quest 2):

Jason Aten, a tech columnist with Inc., writes about Meta’s recent round of advertisements in general, and this last video in particular, in a recent editorial titled Facebook’s Ridiculous New Ad Reveals Its Vision of the Metaverse. It’s Everything Wrong with the Company:

If you want people to buy headsets, and Facebook definitely does, you do what companies do and you make an ad. That’s exactly what Facebook did, designed to highlight the Oculus Quest 2. 

In it, two men are playing video games in virtual reality using their Oculus Quest headsets. The two men are apparently neighbors, but have no idea. In fact, they don’t even like each other in real life, demonstrated by the closing scene where they yell at each other for making too much noise through the wall.

In the game, however, they are both teammates and friends. They even complain about their bad neighbors, again not realizing they are referring to each other. The ad is meant to be humorous, of course. It’s not, but that’s not even the biggest problem.

The real problem is that Facebook–which now calls itself Meta but is still the same company, with all the same issues–thinks this is a good representation of why you’d want to put on a VR headset and jump in the metaverse. If that’s the case, it’s a brilliant example of everything wrong with the company.

Jason goes on to write:

…the people who are friends don’t even realize they can’t actually stand in each other in real life. They live next door to each other, never interact in real life other than to ignore each other’s small talk in the elevator, or to yell at each other through the wall. 

Except, that’s everything that’s wrong with the way people connect online. And Facebook is largely the reason. Over the last decade, Facebook has worked hard to make us think that scrolling through a feed of images and posts from people we are loosely connected to is a substitute for actually engaging with real people. 

Not all connections are equal. Following someone on Twitter, or sending a friend request on Facebook doesn’t mean you have a relationship. It doesn’t even mean you know the person in real life. The problem is that we think that we know people because we scroll through an endless feed of carefully curated photos and moments they share. 

Part of the problem of eliminating the friction in making those connections online is that it makes it easier to connect with people you don’t actually know. Real relationships–the kind that add actual value to our lives–require proximity, conversations, and physical interaction. 

If the metaverse is going to be an amplified version of the kind of relationships people have been building online for years, I’m not sure we’re better off. 

In discussing the (in)effectiveness of this advertising campaign on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, somebody made the following insightful observation:

They don’t need the ad to tell anybody anything- everyone is talking about it. The commercial did what it was supposed to do, get people’s attention and put Meta in the public consciousness.

Say the family is gathered together for the game—the less computer savvy family members go “what the heck was that”, then the techies in the family explain it to them, and have the time to get them to understand it better than a 1 minute ad could hope to do. The tactic was to get people to ask the question.

Hmmm, perhaps there is some method to Meta’s madness after all. The commercials are intended to be some sort of a conversation starter. From an experienced metaverse user perspective it’s bonkers, but then, WE (i.e. the hardcore virtual reality and virtual world crowd) are not the target audience here; the broader general public, who knows little to nothing about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, is the target.

And, again I say something I repeat often on this blog, the adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Meta’s continued pouring of profits into this sort of advertising means that many more new people will be introduced to the concepts of the metaverse. In the long run, this is a good thing for all metaverse world builders and content creators, whether or not they are on board with Horizon Workrooms and Horizon Worlds, or use Meta-branded VR hardware like the Quest 2.

In other words, Meta’s recent promotional push is good for everybody—provided that we (the people and companies who are passionate about social VR and virtual worlds) seize and pursue the opportunities which will arise due to this greater metaverse awareness by the general, non-computer-geek public. Everybody wins.


P.S. I wanted to leave you with something which I found extremely clever and amusing. The government of Iceland has brilliantly parodied Mark Zuckerberg’s recent Connect keynote address in the following funny three-minute video: come to the Icelandverse!

Now THAT is the kind of advertising which Meta should aspire to! 😉

“I like to dream with my eyes”: The BBC Reports on Lessons the Metaverse Can Learn from Second Life

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 600 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and all the companies building it. You’re welcome to come join us! More details here.


Premium Second Life members can get a lovely Linden Home (image source: Linden Lab, via BBC)

I often say that 18-year-old Second Life has many lessons which newer metaverse platforms would be wise to learn from, and it would appear that the BBC agrees! Yesterday, in an article titled Zuckerberg’s metaverse: Lessons from Second Life, reporter Joe Tidy wrote:

It has been about 10 years since I first entered the virtual world of Second Life, arguably the internet’s first attempt at what every tech giant is now racing to build: the so-called metaverse.

The term metaverse was coined in the 1990s in a science-fiction novel, Snow Crash, where it served as a virtual-reality successor to the internet, where people live large portions of their lives in virtual environments.

Second Life peaked in the late 2000s with millions of users and hundreds of excitable headlines about people devoting hours of their daily lives to live digitally.

Since then, I assumed it had died a slow and quiet death. But how wrong I was.

One of the people he met in-world was Rei:

Our avatars bumped into each other after teleporting to a seaside world modelled on a strange rundown 1960s Scottish fishing village. He told me he had been spending time in Second Life for about four months after “getting curious about all this metaverse stuff”.

Rei is not a fan of Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse. “They’ll want to control everything. But I think the people should be in charge and it should be fully open,” he told me.

The entire article is well worth a read, especially if you are not familiar with Second Life and its history. SL’s massive marketplace where avatars can buy and sell user-generated content are just one of the reasons why Second Life is still so popular (in fact, many newer social VR platforms such as VRChat and Rec Room are hard at work at building their own in-world marketplaces!).

There are indeed many lessons which the newer social VR platforms (such as Meta’s Horizon Worlds, still in closed beta testing two years after it was first announced) can learn from the both the successes and the scandals of Second Life’s 18-year history. Joe ends his article:

Back in Second Life, I asked Rei one last question before I logged off: why does he keep coming back?

He answered: “I like to dream with my eyes”.

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you—if you have never done so, or even if you haven’t been in SL for a long time—to come pay us a visit! You might be surprised by what you find. Second Life still is a vibrant place, 18 years after its founding, with tens of thousands of concurrent users in the virtual world at any time of the day or night.

The Second Life website (just click on “Sign Up” in the upper right-hand corner to get started)

Thanks to Neobela for the heads up!

I Have Joined Clubhouse (Be Afraid…BE. VERY. AFRAID.)

The Clubhouse logo

Well, it finally happened: I caved, and I joined Clubhouse. (God help us all.)

If you know nothing else about me, know this: I have been a lifelong tire-kicker of social networks of all kinds over the years, starting with Friendster and MySpace (I wrote about my many misadventures with Friendster here and here). I was an early adopter of Facebook and countless other social networks (remember Tribe? Hi5? Orkut?!?? Trust, Auntie Ryan was on them all, sweetheart). I was an early adopter of Flickr way, waaay back, when they were still a tiny Vancouver startup. And I was also a part of the whole wild, crazy Google+ rollercoaster saga, from beginning to bitter end.

So this is not my first time at the rodeo! Far from it. If my past experience with Friendster, Flickr, Facebook and its ilk repeats itself, I am in for a head-first, deep dive into Clubhouse! (I may not resurface for weeks, people. Google+ basically took over my life for months in 2011.)

Be afraid…BE. VERY. AFRAID.

I have lived and learned, made many mistakes (which I hope I will not repeat this time around), and basically, I have become rather bitter, cynical and jaded about it all. 😉

What had seemed like such good, clean, harmless fun back in those halcyon MySpace, Friendster, and Orkut days has turned into something more suspect, more sinister, more polarizing and divisive, and more weaponized (and yes, I do think I have some form of Facebook PTSD, which tends to colour my perspective).

Therefore, I am now much more reserved and cautious when it comes to new social networks and social media platforms. In fact, at the very end of January, when there was such a big fuss on Twitter about Elon Musk hosting a room in Clubhouse, I tweeted:

I am following all the chatter on Twitter about Elon Musk and Clubhouse, and half of me is feeling FOMO, and the other half is thinking: do I *really* want to join yet another social network that is going to get worse the more it opens up from its exclusive, invite-only phase?

However, when an acquaintance on Twitter posted about a new virtual worlds discussion group starting up in Clubhouse tomorrow night, I was in like a dirty shirt! (Thanks to Shawn Whiting for creating this new group, and thank you to the kind person who shared one of her precious Clubhouse invites with me. so I could take part!)

The tweet that sealed my fate: Now I *had* to get into Clubhouse!

So, yes, I am excited, but I am also cautious and wary (and no, please do not ask me for an invitation to join; I only have two and I am saving mine for a few, select people whom I already have in mind). Half of me feels like one of the cool kids, and the other half thinks I have drunk the Kool-Aid. So we’ll see how this all turns out. The sentiment I expressed in my tweet above still holds as true as when I wrote it.

What is Clubhouse? If you have been living under a rock, or (like me) in the frozen Canadian prairie hinterlands, Clubhouse is the latest hot social media platform (currently invite-only, and currently only available for the iPhone) which allows users to connect with each other via voice, create rooms where discussions can take place, and host events. (The Elon Musk event I mentioned above was an interview, where over 5.000 users packed into one room to hear him speak.)

C|Net reporter Erin Carson writes:

Clubhouse, which is still in beta and isn’t yet available to the public, was founded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. It’s an audio-based social platform. You can enter rooms (or create a room) and hear or participate in discussions on topics: how to pitch your startup idea, the future of marriage, whether Clubhouse is getting boring. Rooms generally have speakers, the way conference panels do, and moderators. The conversation is in real time, meaning you can hear folks throwing in their opinions about the subject at hand, and you can raise your hand to toss in yours as well. 

“Imagine if you were in class with everybody in the world,” said Natasha Scruggs, an attorney from Kansas City, Missouri, who’s been on the app for a couple of weeks. 

Clubhouse is the latest manifestation of our desire to connect to each other at a time when social distancing and remaining isolated at home is the new norm. But while videoconferencing services like Zoom have blown up for everyone, Clubhouse’s largest appeal is its exclusivity and its ability to draw in notable figures including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Officially launched less than a year ago, in April 2020, Clubhouse has racked up some truly impressive user growth statistics (source):

  • May 2020: 1,500 users
  • December 2020: 600,000 users
  • January 2021: 2 million users
  • February 2021: 6 million users

In fact, Clubhouse is currently valued at one billion U.S. dollars  (up from $100 million in May 2020), making it a unicorn along with the likes of Uber and Facebook (yes, Mark Zuckerberg is a user, too, and yes, I’m sure that the breakout success of Clubhouse is giving him some sleepless nights).

So, like I said, we’ll see. I hope that I will be able to use Clubhouse to interact more easily with the many wonderful and talented people who work and play in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, in much the same way as I do on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server.

2020.exe Has Stopped Working

Ryan pokes his nose outside of the self-imposed news blackout of his pandemic bunker…

Looks at today’s reporting on the Twitter/Facebook/Zuckerberg/Trump dumpster fire:

… and Ryan hurriedly retreats back into “social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”, slamming the door shut behind him, until at least 2021.