How ComplexLand gave advertisers a space to play in the metaverse

photo of person using AR/VR googles with dollar sign bubbles

Complex Networks’ ComplexLand was born out of necessity to replace some of the revenue lost when the pandemic shut down the publisher’s largest shopping and entertainment event of the year: ComplexCon.

But from that first virtual event in the metaverse in December 2020 came a franchise that the publisher now sees as a permanent addition to its events business.

And it’s a potentially lucrative addition at that, given the fact that some media buyers are saying CPMs for metaverse events tend to exceed those of in-person events. 

The third iteration of the metaverse event, called ComplexLand 3.0, ran from May 25 – 27 and had eight sponsors on board, all of whom were focused on establishing themselves with a Web3-native audience and create interactive brand awareness campaigns, said Jeff Mazzacano, svp of brand partnerships at Complex Networks, which was acquired by BuzzFeed last year. And despite the fact that shopping is the core of ComplexLand, the sponsors of this year’s event weren’t overly focused on getting people to purchase their products when outlining their campaign goals, he added. 

“It’s kind of counterintuitive, but we don’t see ComplexLand – as much as it is a lower-funnel tactic [because] you’re literally there to shop – that wasn’t really the focus from a brand partnership perspective,” said Mazzacano. 

Instead, the eight sponsors wanted to meet audiences in this new Web3-based environment to establish themselves as brands that are willing to experiment in this new digital space. Two of the advertisers – Pizza Hut and Lexus – featured NFT (non-fungible token) projects as part of their campaigns and another advertiser, Fidelity, advertised its exchange-traded fund (ETF) for NFTs while sponsoring the map of the ComplexLand metaverse.

For clients that Trey Dickert, vp of media and strategy at media buying agency Media Two Interactive, has worked with, metaverse experiences are really out of reach from their budgets, despite early interest in the high levels of engagement with attendees that these events typically boast. 

“The price tag [of an in-person event] is going to be much lower because there are many other sponsors that are a part of it at different tiers that are much lower [in cost] than the main sponsor. For metaverse events, we typically have not seen different sponsorship tiers,” Dickert said, which keeps campaign costs at a premium and expects sponsors will splash out on a highly intricate or custom campaign that’s representative of the Web3 technology the event is built into. 

A Complex spokesperson declined to share how much sponsorship revenue increased year over year as well as how much revenue ComplexLand 3.0 generated overall. From the inaugural ComplexLand (which took place in December 2020) to the 2.0 version, sponsorship revenue increased by 60% and the number of advertisers increased from seven to eight, the spokesperson said. 

This year, ComplexLand 3.0 also had eight advertisers, but Mazzacano said that the rates increased year over year in accordance with the attendance growth, though he declined to share hard numbers or an average rate, as most of the campaigns are very custom and don’t follow standard pricing. 

While Complex charges $80 to $500 for people to attend ComplexCon, ComplexLand is free for attendees in an effort to keep the metaverse event accessible and draw in a global audience. From last year’s event to this year’s event, registrations increased by 10%, total page views increased almost 20% and the number of pageviews per session was up 22%, according to the company. The spokesperson declined to provide the event’s total attendance. What’s more, people from almost 200 countries attended the event in the metaverse, said Mazzacano. 

As the barrier to entry lowers for people explore the metaverse, Dickert is optimistic so too will the cost to clients.

“If it continues to grow in popularity, and Oculus headgear continues to become cheaper and cheaper, and people keep adopting it, then [involvement in the metaverse] is going to start to come down as far as the overall cost,” Dickert said.

More in Media

Media Briefing: Publishers say a cookie-less future remains murky, overheard at the Digiday Publishing Summit

Publishers who attended the Digiday Publishing Summit opened up about their top challenges, concerns and curiosities during closed-door, anonymous town hall meetings.

Why Warner Bros. Discovery is leaning harder into YouTube and Threads to monetize and engage social audiences

WBD is seeing ad revenue growth from its YouTube channels and engagement on Threads surpass performance on X.

Amazon reveals updated smart devices and software powered by Alexa LLM

Powering all of Amazon’s hardware is an updated large language model, that could help connected devices actually be smarter.