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The Directors Of Metaverse Have Millionaire Salaries, But What Do They Do?

Bloomberg — At a technology conference in Paris, advertising giant Publicis Groupe SA unveiled the newest member of its management team. His name is Leon and he is the metaverse director of the company.

Leon’s role is to help blue chip customers such as Walmart Inc (WMT), UBS Group AG (UBS) and Nestlé SA (NESNN) to understand what blockchain, NFTs and a more immersive internet experience could mean for their business.

The reason is clear: Consultants at McKinsey & Co. that annual metrograph-related spending could reach as much as $5 trillion by 2030.

Leon has an email address, a LinkedIn profile, and a French accent. But not a salary: Leon is a digital avatar that looks like a lion.

Although León is not human, companies are increasingly hiring real people to help them navigate the so-called “meta-jungle.” From consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), talent manager Creative Artists Agency, Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica SA, luxury goods manufacturer LVMH, even wedding registry retailer Crate & Barrel, have decided they need a metaverse director.

While the recent downturn in the tech sector has hit big names like Meta Platforms Inc. (META) and Roblox Corp. (RBLX), this did not prevent companies from distributing millionaire salaries to their new executives as a down payment to secure their digital future. Analyst at Gartner Inc. (IT) say that one in four people will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse within a few years. It’s not clear what we’ll do then, but P&G hopes, for example, that it will involve a commitment to Crest toothpaste or Herbal Essences shampoo.

“Brands need to be closer to their customers, and the metaverse is a channel to do that,” said Hamza Khan, a partner at McKinsey who leads the firm’s metaverse efforts. “Compared to the early days of e-commerce, brands are much more active this time and much earlier.”

The pressure to keep up with technological trends has spawned new management titles for decades. In the 1980s, the CIO emerged, understanding the inner workings of IT and its application to broader business strategy. Later, CTOs emerged as far-reaching thinkers who could assess developing technologies and how they might be used in the long term.. Recently, chief executives have sought to modernize outdated business practices so that companies are not “Amazonized” or overwhelmed by a more nimble, tech-savvy rival.

Metaverse Mall, a Metaverse shopping center created in Argentina
Metaverse Mall, the Metaverse mall created in Argentina

Digital FOMO

Metaverse bosses first appeared in video game manufacturers, where immersion in a digital universe is central to their products. But this function is visible in other institutions that Jump into the web3.

P&G launched a digital platform called BeautySPHERE this year and reimagined a popular TV ad from the 1980s into a video game. Nike Inc. (OF) bought a virtual sneaker company and created a world based on its real headquarters. Starbucks Corp. (Sex) is introducing coffee-themed NFTs (non-fungible points) tied to its customer loyalty program. Walmart could create its own cryptocurrency. Luxury brands such as Gucci, Balenciaga and Dolce & Gabbana have taken their fashions into virtual domains in the hope that online-savvy young people will turn into real-world buyers of expensive bags, watches and jewelry.

Few of these experiments made money. But that’s not what’s important right now. Many large companies have been too slow to adopt other technologies, and history is not like laggards. At Walmart in the late 1990s, e-commerce was not really embraced. His website was originally created as an independent company. Store managers refused to put the site’s URL on shopping bags, fearing they would become victims of personal selling. That rejection and delay opened a window that Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) took the opportunity to become a giant.

Call it FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, or fear of not being part of a trend) metaverse. The bosses feel it. Crate & Barrel Holdings Inc. CEO Janet Hayes said it is “essential” that the company has “a consequential presence in the metaverse”. The CEO of Walt Disney Co. (DIS), Bob Chapek, said that the metaverse “will create a completely new paradigm for how to experience and engage with audiences with our stories.” At CAA, he will impact “changes in content creation, distribution and community engagement that drive significant opportunities for our customers,” said President Jim Burtson.

Translating that talk into action involves the work of executives like P&G’s Ioana Matei, whose title is head of emergent and immersive technologies, and LVMH’s Nelly Mensah, vice president of digital innovation and solutions who emerging at the house of Fendi and Bulgari. Disney’s man in the metaverse, Mike White, is senior vice president in charge of next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences. At Publicis, the Leon avatar serves as an “ambassador and guide” in the metaverse, a spokesperson said, and the company actually has more than 1,000 employees who create web3 experiences for customers.

To date, newly appointed meta-experts tend to take on other responsibilities. For example, Sebastian Brauer of Crate & Barrel. His day job is to lead product design and development, but he says he spends 20% of his time on metaverse tasks like strategy, outreach, and finding ways to bridge the physical and virtual domains.

Brauer has a design background (his mother is an architect) and admits he’s not a techie. Born in Ecuador, whose passion for technology was inspired by his first iPod, Brauer said he got the job in the metaverse after talking to Hayes, the CEO, about his success trading cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

“He had the courage to say we want to learn this and decided to appoint me as leader,” he said.

Winning over skeptics in the metaverse

According to Cathy Hackl, who helps companies build their meta-business units and claims to be the self-proclaimed “world’s first female meta-business manager,” the ideal boss can speak as fluent in AR and VR. sales and marketing.

“It’s not easy to find them, but there are people who are halfway between the two worlds,” he says.

Metaverse directors need to build external alliances and win over internal skeptics, says Wendy Doulton, managing partner of Katalyst Group, a consumer technology recruiting firm.

One example is Joanna Popper: From HP Inc. (HP Inc.) newly appointed director of the Creative Artists Agency.HPQ) where he led their virtual reality efforts, working with studios like Disney and Paramount. Prior to that, he held positions in marketing, consulting and investment banking. CAA, whose Hollywood clients include actors Tom Hanks and Reese Witherspoon, also represents NFT artists such as Micah Johnson and, through an independent partnership, has invested in meta entities such as NFT marketplace OpenSea.

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One uses a Virtual Reality viewer(Bloomberg/Angel Garcia)

Popper said his role is to “build a metaverse strategy” by making investments, partnerships and content on behalf of clients, while making sure the entire 3,200-person agency understands how important it is. She said she was courted by companies from various sectors to take on the role of metaverse director before deciding on CAA.

Popper’s unique skill set is why metaverse bosses can attract compensation packages of more than $1.5 million, say those familiar with his contracts.

Another approach is to use an insider who brings some credibility to the organization, as Crate & Barrel did. Since being hired, Brauer has recruited a small “think tank” of like-minded colleagues who find time outside of their regular duties to strategize about the web3. “We are not rushing,” he said. “We’re a private company, so there’s no pressure on us.”

The first steps of the metaverse

You may not feel the pressure, but the recent downturn in the tech sector may cause major players in the metaverse to rethink their ambitions. Meta, the tech giant formerly known as Facebook, which has changed its name to emphasize its focus on what its CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls “the next frontier,” is slowing the pace of investments long-term after the first decrease in the company’s quarterly income. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the matter of metaverse bosses, but it has already been said that the company is looking to fill various leadership positions in areas such as AI, gameplay, and machine learning.

Shares of computer chip maker Nvidia Corp. (NVDA), which wants its Omniverse platform to serve as the basis of the metaverse, has fallen by more than half this year as dwindles demand for personal computers. Roblox, the gaming platform that powers immersive experiences for brands like Gucci, Chipotle, and Ralph Lauren, also reported disappointing results, with lower-than-expected daily users.

The crypto winter has arrived, NFT purchases have slowed, and increasingly cost-conscious businesses need to focus on what will actually make them money. Brauer admits this: “The last thing I want to do as we head into a possible recession is to eat up a company’s resources,” he said. “But I see this as an investment to grow. It’s R&D. This train is coming.”

The CAA’s Popper said the recession creates an “opportune time” to build. “We are in the early innings of a long extra-inning game.”

It is not clear whether these early evangelists will still exist in the later entries. Just because they’ve landed the role “doesn’t mean they’re ready to lead it for the next 5 to 10 years,” said Nada Usina, an executive consultant and recruiter at Russell Reynolds Associates. “When you start climbing, you have to come in with another leader. The metaverse will continue to evolve, so the notion of a metaverse boss is also quite dynamic.”

I mean, Leon better look at his virtual back. There is a jungle out there.