Sunday, October 29, 2006

:: adgruntie :: Second Life for Advertisers

+ So it seems that the new trend for ad agencies is to set up shop in Second Life. So far BBH, Leo Burnett, and Crayon (which launched both in SL and in real life at the same time) have office space in the online space. The site has been around since 1999 but recently it has picked up steam with marketers and advertisers as a place to reach and interact with consumers, test marketing plans and new product ideas, as well as provide information on current products.

So I decided to see what the big deal was and I've created a persona to check it out. You have to download a program to your computer which accesses the web and puts you into the virtual reality. You pick a name, although for your last name you're given a list to choose from. Although recently, companies have been able to pay a fee to get their corporate name as their last name.
That's because the company has decided, CNET has learned, to charge individuals who want a real last name a $100 setup fee and a $50-a-year maintenance fee. Companies that want their corporate name can have unlimited accounts for a $1,000 setup fee and $500 a year.

That means that we'll be seeing more instances of companies like Sun populating the world with last names like "SunMicrosystems."
The article states that the reasoning behind it, beyond being another way for the SL to make money, is that many coporations don't find the list of last names available for free to be "professional enough".

You go through a tutorial which teaches you how to change your appearance, learn how to pick up things and move them, how to fly, and other things. There is a search feature which provides the ability to find people, places and events. Type in BBH and you'll see their buildings and can be teleported to their office. Of course I checked it out on a Sunday so there was no one there...although I do have no idea if people are there during the week. I'll have to go back and check it out. BBH does have some of their ads up on the walls, their sheep logos around the place and conference areas where you can sit down and hang out.
Linden Labs makes most of its money leasing "land" to tenants, Rosedale said, at an average of roughly US$40 per month per "hectare" or US$195 a month for a private "island." The land mass of Second Life is growing at about 8 percent a month, a spokeswoman said, and now totals "30,000 hectares," the equivalent of about 246km2 in the physical world. Linden Labs, a private company, does not disclose its revenue.
That's definitely cheaper than any real real estate anyone would be able to find. Perhaps that's part of the allure for smaller businesses trying to get off the ground as well.

Many corporations also have SL locations. Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, Nissan, and Pontiac have jumped on the SL bandwagon to flog their wares and build brand awareness to the SL community.
In Second Life, retailers like Reebok, Nike, Amazon and American Apparel have all set up shops to sell digital as well as real-world versions of their products. Last week, Sun Microsystems unveiled a new pavilion promoting its products and IBM alumni held a virtual world reunion.

This week, performer Ben Folds will promote a new album with two virtual appearances. At one, he will play the opening party for Aloft, an elaborate digital prototype for a new chain of hotels planned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The same day, Folds will also "appear" at a new facility his music label's parent company, Sony/BMG, is opening at a complex called Media Island.
Heck, even Reuters has set up a SL office.

From what little I saw in my first 2 hours trying to figure the place out, is that there are some billboard type placements (granted I haven't been very many "places" in the place either so, this is just from a n00b POV. (n00b=newbie) And in fact, a press release was issued by a company called Centric.
"We had to do it," said Stoddard. "We noticed that display ads have gotten out of hand. They come in huge, ugly, garish clusters which really detract from the SL experience. So, now we're the only ad agency in Second Life that's actually removing ads."
So there is a danger even in the virtual worlds to create massive amounts of clutter. What a surprise! ;)

Second Life isn't the only virtual reality out there. I came across Kaneva (thanks to gmail contextual ad from an email I sent to a friend talking about this). Is it possible that web 3.0 will move beyond the consumer generated content aspect of sharing and whatnot and evolve into this virtual reality where your avatar interacts with every person you come into contact with on the web? Will email and IM morph into a pixelated world that never shuts down and is constantly running in parallel with the "real" world we inhabit? It seems possible. Although I do have to say, I'm not sure I want the ability to chat with every single person that I might be on a webpage with or what have you. Still it is an interesting notion.

And if that is the case, the marketing implications could very well stem from what agencies and marketers learn through the first few steps of places like Second Life.

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