What Anheuser-Buschs NFT deal with Gary Vaynerchuk means for marketers and the metaverse – AdAge.com

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Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vaynermedia, says there is no hiding success or failure in the world of NFTs; the brands he works with will know right away whether a launch is a success or a dud. This is because the NFT marketplace is open to the public with all the action logged in the immutable blockchain ledger.

The transparency makes non-fungible tokens a risky bet for Vaynerchuk, but one he is willing to make, since he just announced a new unit within his ad agency called VaynerNFT and signed its first client Anheuser-Busch InBev. “The pressure for VaynerNFT is to put some wins on the board [for Budweiser],” Vaynerchuk says, “because it’s so black and white. Did you sell $1, did you sell $1 million.”

On Wednesday, Vaynerchuk announced the NFT venture, which follows his newfound passion for the fledgling digital asset space. In May, Vaynerchuk launched a more personal NFT project called VeeFriends, in which he auctioned 10,200 NFTs to fans with varying levels of perks culminating in a live event for the digital token-holders called VeeCon. Meanwhile, AB InBev has been with Vaynermedia as a client for eight years already, and the beer-maker has also dabbled in NFTs in the past few months. VaynerNFT’s announcement promised to take “the Budweiser community into the Metaverse.” (The metaverse is where the virtual world meets the real world, and NFTs are the bedrock of the products and services within those realms.)

Vaynermedia is not the only agency to look to pave the way for brands in this new digital class of assets. VMLY&R, Huge, Digitas and other major agencies have an interest in NFTs. The ad world does not want to be slow to react to what could define the future of online commerce and culture, says Craig Elimeliah, exec creative director at VMLY&R. “When we say the word ‘NFT’ in a presentation, clients get excited,” Elimeliah says.

So far, most brands have had minor NFT “drops,” trying to mimic some of the most popular crypto-creators like Beeple, an artist credited with selling the highest-priced NFT artwork in a Christie’s auction in March for $69 million. That sent brands like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Pringles, Goldfish and Stella Artois racing to popular NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible.

The ad agencies are trying to develop more significant programs with brands that take NFTs out of the sphere of gimmicks to actually transforming how brands interact with consumers. There are still a lot of questions, however, about the stability of the marketplace. NFTs are typically backed by cryptocurrency, which are notoriously volatile. Price swings can change the value of NFTs, and an exuberant market can quickly turn into a bust. Also, the technology is not quite accessible to the masses who are unfamiliar with crypto and digital wallets. “It’s a big barrier, but I think it’s OK for now,” Elimeliah says.

The complexity is where agencies like Vaynermedia come in. “We’re doing consulting and strategy and execution for brands, influencer and intellectual properties to launch their NFT projects,” Vaynerchuk says.

Vaynerchuk will provide the expertise in areas like how many “tokens” to create for certain projects, which blockchain to use, what currency to accept, and building the community around the NFTs. 

AB InBev wants its brand to be accessible through NFTs, says Richard Oppy, VP of global brands. Anheuser-Busch InBev. This means it will have digital assets that the owners, its customers, can use for real world and online activities. Oppy says AB InBev and VaynerNFT are not ready to announce their first project, but it promises to involve an international sports star.

The beer giant is a major sponsor for events like the World Cup and Super Bowl, and it has relationships with bars and other venues. “Imagine being able to have that [NFT] as a token where you can go into the best bars and nightclubs in the world,” Oppy says.

AB InBev also has a large stable of intellectual property, collectibles and iconography that could translate into the NFT world, Oppy says.

Vaynerchuk says that he is convinced that the NFT market is just getting started, even if there are naysayers that predict a coming dip in value and enthusiasm. DappRadar, a group that tracks NFT sales, says NFT markets have been resilient—$2.5 billion coursed through the markets in the first half of the year. 

Nathan Phillips, founder of digital creative firm Technology, Humans and Taste, says that NFTs, and their trade value, will allow consumers to profit from their fandom. “An NFT means they can earn money sharing the love of your brand online,” Phillips says.

This is a whole new paradigm than simply professing an affinity for a brand in a social media post. With an NFT, the consumer owns a stake in the success. “What I want to do as band is create a currency to visit the world of a brand where you can earn stuff,” Phillips says. “Maybe you get free beer, but more than that you become a citizen of planet Budweiser.”


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