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Julia Haart and Elite World Group are Taking On the Metaverse, One Avatar at a Time

As the metaverse gains prominence in the technology landscape, an increasing number of companies are bringing the virtual world into their operations. For example, Elite World Group (EWG) CEO Julia Haart is transforming her world-class talent management business into a talent media company, with virtual innovation at the forefront.

EWG is developing virtual avatars of its 5,400-plus models, influencers, performers, and athletes. When each talent’s avatar debuts on a metaverse platform, they’ll play a key role in the talent’s long-term branding campaign.

EWG Puts the Power in Talent’s Hands

Julia Haart explains this new paradigm’s concept. “If you think of the talent, instead of thinking of them as athletes or actors or models … to me, those are all platforms. We utilize that and put the power in their hands. It’s this massive shift in the power dynamic.

“What we’re doing is we’re helping them create themselves into brands and businesses. We utilize the time that they’re in the public eye to build them into brands. Far past the time they’re on whatever platform they started from, whether it’s a tennis court or a runway or a football stadium, their audiences become so accustomed to coming to them, they will continue. They are the media. They have the audience. Our aggregated viewership has now reached 2.2 billion people.

“I always tell every talent: Find your angel product. … It means something that you are truthfully passionate about, that people know when they come on your website, on your Instagram page or your TikTok or whatever, they are going to learn more about X. Let people understand who you are. That’s the first time in history that tennis players and models and athletes can say who they are, and it’s not just about what they do,” she emphasizes.

EWG’s Hyperrealistic Avatars

Haart possesses a visible enthusiasm for EWG’s talent avatars. She has a special name for these sophisticated virtual characters. “Our avatars are what we call very hyper-realistic avatars. These are not cartoon characters. They are computer-generated images of the person,” she says.

To illustrate, Haart describes the avatar for Jasmine Sanders, a popular model and influencer with nearly 5 million Instagram followers on her handle, @goldenbarbie. Jasmine’s digital clone essentially allows her to be everywhere at once, and her fans across the globe can follow her activities.

Julia Haart further discusses avatars’ growing appeal to each talent’s fans. “Your avatar doesn’t get old. It doesn’t get sick. It doesn’t need to travel. It doesn’t have to worry about COVID. Jasmine’s avatar can walk 14 runways in 14 different countries while she’s napping.

Jasmine can take you shopping at your favorite website. You can hang with Jasmine, and she can tell you which outfits she likes on you. Jasmine’s real human being can walk a physical runway. Jasmine’s avatar can walk a runway on the moon,” Haart concludes.

The Metaverse: A VR-Driven Virtual World

Most tech innovations offer a better or faster way to accomplish a specific task. Alternatively, some technology introduces a specific process that can be adapted for varied applications. However, the metaverse doesn’t fit either definition.

Essentially, the metaverse is an alternate reality in which participants (or users) utilize virtual reality (VR) to create a brand-new digital existence. Technology experts say that much faster internet connectivity, sophisticated virtual reality headsets, and an expanding number of gamers have enabled the creation of these lifelike simulations.

Digital Goods and Economies

Besides visually significant elements, the metaverse involves a digital economy in which users can design goods for sale. Each user can purchase virtual products from other entities while selling their items to fellow users.

Finally, a metaverse user would ideally be able to take virtual possessions (such as their car) between operating platforms. In fact, this interplatform usability would extend to each user’s virtual persona, or avatar. Although each avatar is currently limited to its platform of origin, users could eventually be free to transport their avatar between multiple virtual worlds.

Metaverse Upsides and Downsides

With currently available technology, a single server can host hundreds of users, enabling powerful shared experiences. Sophisticated motion-tracking tools can discern a user’s exact field of vision or the location of their hands. Other technologies facilitate increasingly lifelike avatars and seamless virtual scenarios.

However, technology companies have not divulged how real-life human beings will interact with elements of the metaverse. Virtual reality headsets are bulky and uncomfortable, and users can experience motion sickness if they wear the devices for too long.

In addition, the technology firms’ esoteric metaverse visualizations have not included details on how those visions will be transformed into “reality.” Early adopters would likely appreciate this additional information, and increased familiarity with the technology could enable easier marketplace acceptance.

Why EWG Fully Embraces the Metaverse

Julia Haart’s commitment to EWG’s evolution and her dedication to avatar development stem from her vision about the potential significance of these efforts. In fact, in 2019 she assumed EWG’s leadership role to facilitate the transformation of the company’s largely female talent base.

“The reason I took it over is because I realized that I have the possibility to make an army of financially independent women by utilizing their social media channels as actual networks,” she says.

The Digital Evolution Continues

Shortly after she settled into EWG’s executive suite, Julia Haart began developing the metaverse concept and assembling her avatar-creation team. In her view, the metaverse represented the next logical progression in the digital evolution. She felt that, with the right infrastructure in place, there was potential for a game-changing dynamic and a huge market impact.

“And by that I mean, think about, the most-watched show on NBC gets around 3 or 4 million viewers. My talent gets 50 million viewers while they’re mowing their lawn. They have the audience,” she says.

“The first thing was to give them longevity. And by giving them longevity, I mean turning them into brands. We did that by bringing in-house what networks have: writers, producers, directors, and [filmmakers] to help our talent craft their stories,” she explains.

EWG’s Growth in the Metaverse

As EWG continues to fine-tune its avatar technology, Haart says these virtual characters will gradually assume more human characteristics. She’s confident as the company broadens its technological capabilities and delivers results for its business partners, more top-tier companies will seek out the firm’s expertise.

Further Avatar Development

Avatar creation is a complex, ongoing process that can take months to perfect. Working with skilled avatar designers, each talent spends an entire day focused on capturing movement and expressions. Over time, the avatar will adopt the talent’s speech patterns and situational responses. Eventually, the avatar will almost exactly resemble the talent in every phase of their life.

Looking toward the future, Haart says artificial intelligence (AI) technology will enable EWG’s avatars to speak exactly like their human talent. However, she also says there’s a line that avatars will never be able to cross.

“We need human touch. We can’t be alone. We are not made to be alone. And to me, that’s what makes this beautiful. It’s not a replacement of, it’s an addition to — meaning there are moments where you all want to come together. But there are also moments when you cannot,” she emphasizes.

EWG’s Interactive Partnerships

As EWG continues to bring its avatars to the marketplace, the company is attracting A-list brands that want to partner with this industry leader. Julia Haart notes a highly successful recent Steve Madden fashion brand campaign.

EWG came up with the concept, cast, directed, and produced this edgy marketing campaign that featured avatars as engaging product salespersons. An e-commerce component enabled viewers to seamlessly make product purchases.

Julia Haart excitedly summarizes the EWG campaign’s positive outcome. “In their third-quarter earnings report, openly they attributed the connectivity with a younger audience and an increase in sales and web traffic, to our campaign … a 20% increase on launch day and the highest earnings the company has ever had in its entire history,” she proudly says.

Haart goes on to tease an upcoming fashion brand collaboration. “We’ve got a major fashion brand that we’re building an entire virtual shopping experience, where you will have an avatar who’s a salesperson. You scan your body and it puts you into the metaverse. You can try on clothing, handbags, you can create your own, you can choose things, and it’s all virtual. So the metaverse is here now,” she summarizes.

Endless Virtual Opportunities

As Julia Haart continues to drive EWG’s evolution, she emphasizes that each new avatar mirrors the company’s highly diverse human talent. The talent’s fans are treated to avatar-led experiences that further connect them to their favorite model, athlete, or other celebrity.

“Our avatars can exist in every imaginable way, whether it’s a shopping experience where we create an entire interactive e-commerce metaverse website where people can literally put themselves in there … or you could sing karaoke with your favorite singer. It’s an endless amount of opportunity,” she concludes.