Things can only get Meta: a brief guide to ad regulation in the Metaverse

Inspecting goods in VR shopping malls. Immersive trips to exotic destinations without leaving the sofa. Exciting new ways of working, learning and playing. Such is the promise of “The Metaverse”, hotly-tipped as the next big technological revolution- and one that could potentially see the most significant epoch shift in advertising since the rise of social media, if not the internet itself.

A Meta tomorrow

But what is “the Metaverse” exactly? At present, it remains more a concept than a tangible ‘thing’, but ultimately it anticipates a significant shift in how people interact with technology by blurring the “real” and “digital” worlds to an extent we’ve not experienced before.

Many of the elements that will likely form the basis of the Metaverse already exist:

  • virtual worlds (computer-generated environments that allow users to socially interact with others);
  • virtual reality (using technology to interact in a seemingly ‘real’ way with a computer-generated environment)
  • augmented reality (overlaying the ‘real world’ with digitally-created content); and
  • digital economies (cryptocurrencies and NFTs).

However, the “Metaverse” intends to take these elements further and weave them into a virtual space that expands beyond the boundaries of one service or product, with the ultimate aim being a “cyber-Universe” that can be interacted with as easily and as immersively as the world we live in, with the advantages – and disadvantages – that entails.

Advertisers do it Meta

As with all great shifts in technology, the Metaverse promises advertisers new and exciting ways of marketing their goods and services, which in turn raises issues for ad regulation. Thankfully, we have a strong track record of handling significant changes in the technological landscape, from our regulation of paid-for internet ads to our remit extension to cover other online content in 2011, and our investment in data science that allows us to more efficiently and pro-actively regulate these areas. Last year, we published guidance on in-game purchases which contains concepts likely to be highly relevant to the Metaverse, and earlier this year we published guidance on advertising cryptoassets, demonstrating that several aspects of the digital economy are already on our radar.

Ultimately, though, we expect that many of the issues likely to arise, whether they relate to the identification of marketing, the targeting of under-18s, or the absence of significant information, will be similar to those we see in the mundane world in which we presently dwell, and can be dealt with via existing principles in our Codes, which we have applied to new technology over the years. The era of the Metaverse may well be upon us, but remember that the CAP Code applies as much to realms of data as it does to those of brick and mortar.

If you need further, bespoke advice on your non-broadcast ads, our Copy Advice team are here to help.

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