Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Amazon Exec on Virtual World Shopping

Jeff Barr, web services evangelist at Amazon: "You can imagine a Second Life build where you have a concert or a musician that’s just done a live performance, or maybe an author who has done a book reading. Just as you’d walk out of a venue in real life and buy a book or a T-shirt or a CD, now you have the same ability in the virtual world — it’s contextual commerce. People love to do things that stay within the metaphor. So if you can say in character and if you’re essentially doing your shopping in avatar scale, that seems to maintain the quality of the experience."
-- Reuters

Harvard Business Review: Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?

Nissan Puts Sentra Into Second Life

As promised last week, Nissan has just unveiled a Second Life extension of its campaign for Sentra. Here's the location's SL URL, and here are more details from Giff at Electric Sheep. I spent a few minutes on the sim before it went down as developers were apparently adding final touches, but here's what I saw:

A giant vending machine with very realistic action. The machine dispenses Sentras.

The car itself. Apparently customizable (although I am yet to figure how exactly) and driveable (ditto).

A decorative public bathroom. Haven't seen one before in SL, although this one was closed. Nice touch. There's also a driving course and a giant loop, but then the sim crashed so I don't have any pics.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nielsen To Track Video Games

"Nielsen Media Research on Wednesday announced an electronic rating service to track who is playing what game. The data will be collected from the same 10,000 sample households used for Nielsen's television ratings. Subscribers such as advertisers and video game makers will get a weekly ratings reports and charts showing the most popular games, as well as information about the type of console and the genre of the game. Jeff Herrmann, vice president of Nielsen's wireless and interactive services division, said he expects the system will drive advertising investment and help convert video game advertising from discretionary to essential."
-- AP, press release

Thursday, October 19, 2006

IHT: Nissan Readies Entry into Second Life

"Meanwhile, Nissan is starting a promotion for its Sentra that allows Second Lifers to get their own digital versions of the car out of a gigantic vending machine and drive them around. Much of this is likely to be covered for the outside world by the news outlets CNET and Reuters, which now have reporters embedded full-time in the virtual realm."

International Herald Tribune, "Virtual worlds are moving toward commercial reality", Richard Siklos, October 18, 2006

NY Times on Second Life, Outs Prok

"A Virtual World but Real Money", Richard Siklos, NY Times, October 19, 2006.

NY Times does a large article on Second Life, which just passed the 1M registrations mark. Nothing you don't already know if you follow the space, but here's a nice thought that we come across more and more often:

"The sudden rush of real companies into so-called virtual worlds mirrors the evolution of the Internet itself, which moved beyond an educational and research network in the 1990’s to become a commercial proposition — but not without complaints from some quarters that the medium’s purity would be lost."

Then there's a discussion of the new concern that real companies' expansion into SL is akin to globalism in the RL. The article quotes Prokofy Neva and a reply by Philip Rosedale:

Prokofy: "The next phase will be they try to compete with other domestic products — the people who made sneakers in the world are now in danger of being crushed by Adidas."

"Mr. Rosedale says such concerns are overstated, because there are no advantages from economies of scale for big corporations in Second Life, and people can avoid places like Nissan Island as easily as they can avoid going to Nissan’s Web site. There is no limit to what can be built in Second Life, just as there is no limit to how many Web sites populate the Internet."

Speaking of Prokofy Neva, the article has his (well, hers) real name and picture.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nivea Gets Products Into Splinter Cell: Double Agent

"Nivea Does Video Game Tie-In with 'Splinter Cell'" October 16, Enid Burns, ClickZ. The game is brand new, so no good screenshots yet. Quotes from the article:

"Nivea's first foray into in-game product placement injects its products into the covert world of Sam Fisher, the spy in UbiSoft's "Splinter Cell: Double Agent." The media buy includes product integration, static and dynamic placements, plus out-of-game ads. The marketing program features products from both Nivea and its partner in shaving, Philips Norelco, in a game space hotel bathroom. Beiersdorf agency RDA International conceived the creative to integrate with the game's themes.

The in-game media buy [...] extends across online and offline channels. Nivea created a microsite, thegoodside.com to which all ads in the game and the Internet link. It offers information on Nivea products; Philips Norelco products using Nivea creams[.]

Offline tie-ins include inserts in each retail box of the game which hypes the sweepstakes. The company also bought a print ad in the game's strategy guide published by Prima. The creative features a bottle of after shave made to look like a hand grenade with the message 'Balms away.'"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hijacking Brand Space

The title here is a bit too dramatic, but it does illustrate a potentially much larger problem than the glitch at the Sun's new pavilion (it opened today in SL with a press conference; Millions of Us has more details and pics). After everybody had left, someone dropped a couple of betting balls on the premises, apparently counting on the post-event traffic. Earlier, Second Life Liberation Army picketed the American Apparel store to attract attention to its cause.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Industry Press Warms Up to In-Game Ads

Judging by the growing number of media clippings on the subject, I'm afraid in-game ads are turning into the next shiny thing.

"Agency Avatars," AdWeek, October 9, 2006, Eleftheria Parpis. Quote from Leo's chief creator Mark Tutssel: "This is right on the edge of a new space."

"Virtual Worlds: The Next Realm in Advertising?" Brand Channel, Bill Nissim, undated (Sept 2006?)

"Video Games Now a Social Experience," Ad Age, Gavin O'Malley, October 5, 2006

"Leo Burnett Buys Space in Virtual World," Ad Age, Jeremy Mullman, September 28, 2006

"Advergaming: You Got It," Business Week, David Radd, October 10, 2006

Sun, Aloft, BBH Offices in Second Life

I had problems with posting pictures on this blog over the weekend, so I had to move my write-ups on SL's new branded spaces over to AdLab. Here's what you missed:

Monday, October 9, 2006

Wind-Up Records Runs T-Shirt Contest for Seether in Second Life

Wind-up Records (the label that produces Evanescence, I was glad to find out) and Millions of Us are running an in-world promo for the label's band Seether. From the press release: "Members of the Second Life community can visit the Seether venue where they can submit virtual t-shirt designs. The band will select the winning design, print real versions of the t-shirt and make them available in their official band merchandise store for fans in the real world to enjoy. All members of Second Life who travel to the virtual Seether venue will get a special coupon code for the band’s merchandise store and all contest entrants will also receive a virtual Seether poster and tattoo in Second Life."

You don't actually have to be an "entrant" to get the poster. Just click on one of the signs. Anyway, one other interesting bit from the press release: "Seether are no strangers to supporting initiatives for their online fans with appearances on Xbox Live’s Game With Fame as well as a recent promotion made available to PSP users. Performances from the One Cold Night release and some of the band’s music videos were made available to PSP users via a unique network of gaming enthusiast websites created for gaming and music fans alike."

I have two postcards from the Millions of Us sim with the Seether build, but Blogger is not in the mood to display them, so I'm temporarily leaching the file from Reuben's blog.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Anomaly's Office in SL

Piers from PSFK wrote in to point out that Anomaly (an ad agency in NYC) has had an office in SL long before Leo and BBH. I went to check it out and here's a post card. Their offices are at Tinjin, on an island across from PSFK's office.

Two Resident Articles on Marketing in Second Life

Linden Lifestyles, "Pimp Your Own Ride: SL Marketing 101": "98% of Second Life’s clothing, hair and shoe makers are absolutely crap at promoting themselves."

Nicola Escher, "SL Marketing 102": "The crux of my post is: don’t underestimate in-world marketing and promotion."

Plus, the new October issue of SL Business Magazine talks about radio advertising, in-world PR, and profiles Aimee Weber, and the three most prominent design/marketing companies that are bringing real-world brands into SL.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Wired on Adidas's Partnership with EA in NBA Live 07

"In-Game Ads Burrow Deeper," John Gaudiosi, Wired News, October 5, 2006

"Anyone who buys Electronic Arts' NBA Live 07 game on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 (when that console is released in November) will be able to unlock a host of new items and features in the game from Adidas Basketball.

"In addition to the over 100 Adidas-specific elements hidden in the next-generation game, to be unlocked over time through simple codes distributed through retail, online and real-world NBA events like the All-Star Weekend and NBA Finals, Adidas will provide single-use unique codes that message its new marketing slogan, "It Takes 5IVE."

"Acclaim is about to take product placement to another level with its free, ad-supported massively multiplayer online games next year. Game industry veteran Dave Perry, who's directing 2Moons for Acclaim and creating several additional MMO games, wants to open up the door for corporate-sponsored micro transactions.

"When you buy a virtual item, we're going to do a search to see if any advertiser in real-time is willing to pick up the cost of that item," said Perry. 'If you want this sword, it would put up a message and ask if you would like Coca-Cola to buy this item for you.'"

Below: screenshots from NBA Live 07 for Xbox 360 (source: Gamespot). Note how in some cases, the sneakers are Nike, in others - Adidas. Wonder if that's because of the licensing. Would be cool, though, if they could change the shoes dynamically.

Update (a few hours later): On the other hand, it seems Adidas is out of luck because the NBA Live 07 game turned out buggy and crappy, pulling a measly 6.5 rating at Gamespot and a letter of protest by dissapointed fans: "For us however, NBA Live 07 is the final straw. The one that broke the camel's back. The spark that set the field ablaze. Until this release we overlooked any flaws in the game, ones that some of us considered major even if others of us considered them minor. But this release has ignited feelings that EA doesn't care about its fans, which is the reason we are writing today."

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Second Life: Functional Corona Vending Machine for Sale

Love this ad on SL Exchange:

"This Corona Vending machine will quickly pay for itself even in low traffic areas. It is the perfect visual addition to your club, casino, restaurant or even home! It is a fun vendor with a fun product. Easily earn $5L unlimited times over selling the copyable Corona drink inside the machine.

A great investment oportunity to make some good money with minimal investment!"

Monday, October 2, 2006

Burger King Games for Xbox Confirmed

image credits: Kotaku

Kotaku says the long-rumored Burger King games for Xbox will "sell $4 with the purchase of a value meal and will be on sale from Nov. 19 through Dec. 24." The titles are Pocketbike Racer, Big Bumpin, and Sneak King. Some screenshots here.

IBM's Exec on Business Potential of Virtual Worlds

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation, writes on his blog about virtual world's potential for business and communications. Quotes:

"About two years ago, a study conducted by the IBM Academy of Technology concluded that technologies and capabilities from the gaming world would have a very strong impact on all aspects of IT, and made a number of recommendations for follow-on activities, which we have proceeded to implement."

"Another exciting area of study is e-commerce in the virtual world. The original, and now very successful concept of e-commerce, is built around the metaphor of a catalogue, which fits the page content notion of the Web and of browsers very nicely. But in the emerging, highly visual virtual worlds, commerce could be conducted in virtual stores, the allure of which would be limited only by the imagination of the virtual store designers."

"I believe that using such virtual, highly visual capabilities to help us design, simulate, optimize, operate and manage business activities of all sorts is going to be one of the most important breakthroughs in the IT industry over the next decade."

A few more details on the blog of Business Communicators of Second Life. Eightbar covers related IBM's projects.

-- clickable culture, x-posted on AdLab

Leo Burnett, BBH Ready Second Life Offices

The big news of the week: two large ad agencies, Leo Burnett and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, have announced plans to open offices in Second Life (links to the announcements).

Leo works with Millions of Us on an Ideas Hub that will become a collaborative space for the agency's creative people (AdAge). The creatives will apparently have to learn the new interface and port their works as textures into the world. You can visit the commemorative tree marking the initiative at Millions of Us 190,82,23. Leo Burnett Toronto's blog has the full text of the press release and a few comments. Csven at reBang also offers his thoughts: "Someone needs to tell these old agencies that the first rule of Web 2.0 (and Second Life) is: Don't go around bragging about how you figured it out and are now (finally) going to set up an "ideas hub".

Leo Burnett's SL tree of forbidden fruit. Note the CNet office on the background.

Regarding BBH, Guardian reports: "Bartle Bogle Hegarty has opened a virtual advertising agency. BBH's move, within online virtual reality world Second Life, comes as rival Leo Burnett unveiled plans to set up Leo Ideas Hub. BBH has worked with London-based virtual world design agency Rivers Run Red to create a virtual agency populated by avatars of BBH staff including global chairman John Hegarty."

The island's future address is BBH 189, 74, 48. The location actually isn't working yet and is not displayed on the map (although it does come up in search) so you can't teleport there and see it for yourself. Here's how far I got:

I'll keep an eye on the things and will post more screenies as things progress.

Harvard Business Review: Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?

"Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?", Paul Hemp, Harvard Business Review, October 2006

HBR's editor Paul Hemp does a follow-up piece to his "Avatar-Based Marketing". The argument is similar to the one I made in the thesis: in-game shopping experience combines the best of the two worlds - the wealth of information, the wide product range and the convenience of online commerce with the social aspects of brick-and-mortar stores that online retailers hasn't been able to replicate.

Selected quotes:

"As the experience becomes more realistic, there will be a return to the "social and recreational aspect of shopping," a crucial element of bricks-and-mortar retailing that was lost when retailers went online, says Bob Moore, a sociologist at the Palo Alto Research Center who studies virtual human interactions. One can envision a group of teenage girls arranging to meet at a virtual store to try on clothes, comment on each other’s choices, and ultimately choose something, real or virtual, to buy. (Though the sales receipts from virtual items are small, getting people to sport branded items in a virtual world has its own benefits.)"

"But virtual shopping expeditions may be driven more by the urge to chat than the urge to buy. Virtual shopping "would give friends something to do as they socialize online instead of simply sitting and IM-ing each other," says Michael K. Wilson, head of the company that runs There."

"Even eBay, with its jumble-sale character, might be transformed from a tool for finding a particular item to a world in which people could rummage together through piles of virtual stuff, the equivalent of an afternoon of real-world antiquing in the country with friends—an event that, even if no one is looking for anything in particular, inevitably results in someone’s purchasing something."

NY Times: Selling to Avatars

"Selling to Avatars," Rob Walker, New York Times, October 1, 2006

A very top-line "for dummies" guide to the world of SL. The most interesting about it is that it appears in NY Times. Nice quote, too: "It’s a labor-intensive form of escapism, but these user creations are exactly what make the place interesting."
-- via PSFK

Opinion: OMMA Advergame Panelists Biased

IGA's Darren Herman blogs about the recent OMMA panel on advergaming, calling it a farce. Hard to disagree. While advergaming has clear advantages in certain situations for certain demographics, I don't see how you can make a sweeping argument in favor of advergaming over in-game advertising (or the other way around).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

OMMA Panelists: Advergames Outscore In-Game Placement

Media Post: "Games built around a brand, or advergames, are often a better option for marketers than placing ads within a game, a panel of executives said Tuesday at the OMMA conference in New York.

Advergames usually are relatively cheap to produce, and simple to distribute, the executives said. What's more, advergames don't require the same degree of coordination between different parties as ads served while consumers are playing a game."

Of course, all panelists were from the advergaming companies. Blah.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wall Street Journal on Second Life Fashion

"Now, Virtual Fashion", Wall Street Journal, By Andrew Lavallee, September 22, 2006; Page B1.

The article can be accessed online for free for a week, but then will go behind the iron curtain. The highlights, verbatim:

"It's actually, conceptually, not unlike making real clothing," says Alyssa LaRoche, 26 years old, who began designing clothes for Second Life in 2004 under her avatar's name, Aimee Weber." (first time Aimee's RL name is revealed?)

"Raz Schionning, American Apparel's director of Web services, admits to some initial ambivalence about the Second Life store, which opened June 21. Many of the clothes sold in Second Life are on the racy, "Matrix"-inspired side. "I wasn't sure if the concept of selling T-shirts to that audience was going to fly at all," he says. Since then, though, the store has sold some 4,000 items, catering to players who want their avatars to dress as they do." (That's 4,000 items at $US 1)

"Competition has also intensified as more designers have tried to establish themselves. To gain attention, many designers have started blogs or bought online advertising. Several virtual publications, including Second Style, Linden Lifestyles and Pixel Pinup, troll for new releases, and a favorable review can make a big difference for fledgling lines."

"Some designers, like DE Designs' Mr. Hester, have taken steps to copyright their work."

"My wife totally makes fun of me," says Mr. Springer, the online fashion critic. "I don't like to shop in real life."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Data: Gamers Are Heavy Media Consumers

Universal McCann has released that part of its Media in Mind study that deals with gamers (all reports here, a direct link to the 2-page pdf here). A few interesting tidbits. "Video gamers are above average media consumers, partuclarly for the internet and DVD's." Video game players top overall adult media consumption by some 20 minutes a week. The study also found that gaming is a more social activity than previously thought.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fashion Show Scheduled in MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach

MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach - "the whole Laguna experience in a parallel online universe" - is hosting an "exclusive" fashion show tonight (Sept.14).

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Furniture 3D Models in Games and Google Earth

I wrote before about Google Earth and SL-like games becoming increasingly alike. Here's a nice illustration.

An Ikea bed model for Sims 2.

An Ikea bed model for Sketch-up and Google Earth (gEarth?).

Here's an Ikea table for Second Life itself.

Also, a video of a project "named 3D IKEA Manual [that] aims to show the potential of augmented reality (AR) in domestic use".

Spore To Offer Printable Game Characters

Looks like Maxis and EA will let players to order their custom Spore characters as physical figurines for an extra price.
-- 4colorrebellion

Sunday, September 3, 2006

"Advertising in Games" Thesis Posted Online

So, the thesis has been defended and I upped it yesterday to its own brand new site at Games Brands Play. It's in PDF, but I am working on making it more readable and will add pictures, too.
Although this blog was started as a bookmark dump and a "companion" to the work, I'm not stopping it now that the thesis is over. I will probably move it to that new URL at some point, but if you are on RSS you should be fine.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Eternal Forces" Links Game and iTunes

"Left Behind Games is integrating links to the iTunes Music Store into the upcoming title, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces", allowing gamers to easily navigate to the store and purchase music they hear during gameplay. Clicking the link will pause the in-game action and launch the iTunes Music Store page featuring the song. After a quick download, the game is picked up where it was left off. Gamer’s can then customize their play list and listen to the different songs they have downloaded while in-game." The game's release is scheduled for November 2006. Here's Gamespot's preview.

-- press release (pdf), July 26, 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

MediaPost Discusses In-Game Ads for Mobile Phones

"Time To Get In The Game?", Steve Smith, Media Post, August 22, 2006. Quotes:

"All according to who you ask, mobile gaming seems ripe for sponsor underwriting. Some market researchers insist that portable gaming is booming and will be a $5 or $7 billion business by 2011 or so. Others, including some developers in the industry, complain of stagnation in the market. People like playing mobile games more than they like paying for them, other stats suggest."

"MauiGames had early but little-seen golf and sport biking games that actually included in-game ad notices. You run off a cliff in one game and you get some clever full-screen sponsor message. But the first robust dynamic game ad serving system hit the Web last week at GameJump.com. A subsidiary of GreyStripe, which developed in-game ad technology, GameJump boasts 80 ad-enabled Java based games you can download to a select line of phones on Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile networks. GameJump has an AdWrap engine that serves full-screen units before and after game play."

American Apparel Store in SL Taken Hostage in Fight for Voting Rights

"Following the lack of any progress towards introducting citizens voting rights to Second Life the [Second Life Liberation Army] began in-world military operations.

The SLLA selected as its first target the American Apparel Store in SL. Volunteers from the SLLA have been posted to the store and are preventing SL residents from buying any goods from this vendor.

The SLLA has no complaint with American Apparel but is seeking to introduce voting rights to Second Life. We hope that American Apparel will join us in putting pressure on Linden Labs to do this. The SLLA can then stop our attacks against customers using their store."

--SLLA blog, August 11, 2006, via PSFK

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Data: Casual Game Audience Preferences

Casual games taking place of daily activities, CNet/Reuters, August 14, 2006

According to a new study by Harris Interactive, "nearly half (49 percent) would play casual games rather than go to the movie theater, 32 percent opted for them over movies at home, and 37 percent chose them over watching TV."

Dungeon Siege NPC Promotes Other Game

Developers have been promoting their products through in-game billboards since at least mid-1980s, but ArsTechnica writes about an entirely new twist:

"In Dungeon Siege 2: Broken World, our forum goer Scero found an NPC [non-playing character] that told him about the Dungeon Siege PSP game and offered him a code for it, as well as saying the PSP game had a code for items in the game he was playing."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

EA's Julie Shumaker Joins Double Fusion

"Electronic Arts’ top video game advertising executive, Julie Shumaker, announced [August 14] she has joined Double Fusion as vice president of sales. Most recently, Shumaker was national director of sales for video game advertising."

-- Mercury News
-- Double Fusion's press release

News: WPP Acquires Stake in Wild Tangent

"WPP has bought a 3.4% stake in Wild Tangent for an undisclosed sum. WildTangent sells in-game ads for its in-house developed games as well as for third-party games developers. Mark Read, WPP strategy director, said the move would allow the group's clients to tap into WildTangent's in-game advertising network."
-- Brand Republic

Ford Cars in "Ford Bold Moves Street Racing"

image: IGN.com

Ford is preparing a big-budget full-length racing advergame featuring a model line-up ranging from "1968 Mustang GT to the 1973 Escort RS2000 to the hot-off-the-assembly line 2007 Shelby GT500". "Bold Moves" is Ford's current campaign slogan.

"One of the features in the "Street Racing" title that's certainly a bold move for Ford is the decision to allow its cars to show damage as drivers ding them up on the road. Damage will also affect the cars' performance. The issue has been a pain point for game developers and publishers licensing real-world autos for racing titles."

-- Enid Burns, "Ford Vehicles Featured in New Console Game", ClickZ.com, Aug.11, 2006.

Rapid Prototyping of 3D Game Objects

"Using OGLE (i.e. OpenGLExtractor) by Eyebeam R&D we can build characters and environments from your favorite video games. OGLE allows for a 'screen grab' operation for 3D data that can then be saved into standard 3D formats. Visit: ogle.eyebeamresearch.org for more information and let Anvil produce real-world objects in full color from your virtual 3D environments."
-- Anvil Prototype

GTA-themed Commercial for Coke

The born-again GTA(-like) protagonist does good deeds and drinks Coke in this brilliant commercial for Coke. Using game characters as product endorsers is an old idea (Pac-Man starred in a 7-Up spot in the 1980s) that is being rediscovered.

Case: Fictional and Proxy Brands: Sprunk

Data: Activision CEO on In-Game Advertising

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick in an analyst call reported by Seeking Alpha:

"...We look at the amount of hours that are consumed by consumers and let's take 18 to 35-year-old males in the U.S. in front of a video game screen. So last year that was roughly 30 billion hours. Then you compare that to television watching which was to the same demographic roughly 30 billion hours. There was $8.5 billion spent on television advertising to 18 to 34-year-old males and there was less than $50 million spent in-game advertising last year. So it's somewhere between $50 million and $8.5 billion."

"...What we've said all along is the biggest limiter right now in establishing a rate card and generating any kind of reasonable revenues is that you don't have a big enough installed base of next-generation hardware that you can use for measurement purposes. That will not change until you have 20 or 30 million units of always-on Internet capable next-generation consoles in the installed base. So you won't start to see it have an impact on our business until, let's say, two or three years from now."

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Acclaim's Nextr MMO to Be Mostly Ad-Supported

"Acclaim Games announces a free, totally brutal massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) designed specifically for adult gamers. This M-Rated title is targeted at those looking for an adrenaline soaked experience and aimed squarely at players looking to kick @$$ for free! With no subscriptions, and no charge to download the game, it will be funded mostly by advertising--and (even more radically) the user will be allowed to turn off the in-game adverting if they choose. With Perry's approach, Acclaim is determined to offer truly free gameplay by creating a new kind of advertising model for the industry."
-- press release via Gaming Age

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Duran Duran To Give Concerts in Second Life

"British band Duran Duran are to create a virtual island within online game Second Life, on which they will perform actual live concerts. The band is the first major group to announce a virtual world presence in the game."

Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes said: "When I first discovered Second Life a few months ago, I was astounded by the possibilities that were there. "When I started looking at the figures running around, chatting and interacting, I thought this is somewhere between a bizarre virtual reality TV show, a surreal real-life experience and a video game."

-- BBC News, "Duran Duran to Give Virtual Gigs", August 8, 2006

EA To Translate Depeche Mode Song Into Sims Language
Second Life: U2 Concert Report
MTV Overdrive on U2 in SL

Starwood Is Constructing a Branded Hotel in Second Life

Starwood Hotels and Resorts -- the company that operates Sheraton, Westin, Four Points and other brands -- is building a new-brand (and brand-new) hotel in Second Life while blogging about the progress. The first real-world Aloft (they spell it aloft) is planned to open its North American doors in 2008, so the Second Life builders are working off a single exterior rendering.
-- via Three Minds @ Organic

x-posted on Adverlab

Friday, July 28, 2006

MLB 2006 Home Run Derby in Second Life

I was looking for a report on the Electric Sheep's baseball simulcast and found something on YouTube. A large-screen QuickTime version is here. Some information on 3pointD, and some - on ESC's blog.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Porting Doom into Doom 3

You've probably heard about Massive launching interactive ads for Toyota in Anarchy Online (if not, here's a report by Business Week). This paper on Fully Interactive Surfaces in Doom 3 explores a more advanced kind of interactivity -- the authors have embedded the original Doom into the game released a decade later. I wonder if we will soon start seeing advergames inside larger titles.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Q&A With In-Game Ad Execs by Adotas

Adotas does Q&A sessions with the execs from Massive, IGA and Double Fusion. The questions:

1. Has the industry grown large enough that you could consider other in-game advertising companies as serious competition, or is it still a wide open market?

2. In what direction is the in-game ad formats heading: display ads like on billboards, or in-game product placement?

3. Is there an industry standard for measuring in-game ads?

4. How useful do you think in-game metrics are, since games can be played both on and off-line on a whole bunch of different platforms?

5. What sort of games are more easily combined with advertising? What do you do for games that aren't sports or set in a present-day location? What about fantasy, sci fi games, or even puzzle, arcade, and casual titles?

6. Do you think it's possible in the future that some high-profile games could be entirely ad-supported?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SL Business: The Premier Virtual Branding Magazine

Coming out August 1. Follow its progress on the magazine's website. A few more details at SL Insider.

Monday, July 24, 2006

McDonald's Counter-Srike Map

Here's a McDonald's map for Counter-Strike: Source. I also have a McD WAD for Doom but the game isn't stable enough for me to take a snapshot. I suspect none of this was sanctioned by Ronald, but that's the beauty of it.

Need Help: Voice/Sound/Dialog Ads in Video Games?

I am doing the thesis's last chapter that focuses on ad formats in video games and hit that part about voice advertising. You know, where a character says "I wish I had a ride like that" and points to GMS Yukon in the latest CSI game. I also remember hearing about Madden doing product plugs in his commentary to the NFL series, but don't have much more than that.

If you know of any other examples, could you please drop me a line (vedrashko at hotmail) or comment below? Any tips or links will be much appreciated, and you will get an honorable mention in the paper. Oh, and I am already writing about fake radio commercials in GTA: San Andreas, so that's covered.

To make this post worth your time, here's a chapter from Game Design Complete published on Gamasutra (free registration) that talks about various kinds of game advertising opportunities. Also, check out my del.icio.us bookmarks on the subject; plenty of goodies there that haven't been posted here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

MTV Overdrive on U2 in SL

MTV Ovedrive did a story on a recent U2 in SL's concert (much like the one a few months ago):

"A virtual — and unauthorized — U2 might be the most provocative example, but independent musicians and big-label acts are also getting involved, potentially making multiplayer video game worlds the next frontier of touring. Musicians can channel audio into game worlds and set up characters to be their puppet personas — a way to go on tour without leaving their keyboard, be they the "SL" musician Frogg Marlowe or, if Universal Music's official plans continue to take shape, Chamillionaire and the rock band Hinder (see "GameFile: Chamillionaire's Ridin' Virtual, 'Saint's Row' Has A Surprise, Anti-Game Laws Gain Steam And More")."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Panel on Marketing to Virtual Avatars, Part 1

part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Today, Harvard’s Berkman Center hosted a panel discussion titled "Avatar-Based Marketing: What’s the Future of Real-Life Companies Marketing to Second Life Avatars". The two-hour event took place on Berkman Island in Second Life. Panelists included the following avatars (pictured above, left to right, real names in brackets, info taken from the event’s notecard):

  • Razor Rinkitink (Raz Schionning), director of web services at American Apparel that just launched a store in Second Life.

  • Fizik Baskerville (Justin Bovington), a virtual marketer. His company, Rivers Run Red, serves such clients as Adidas, Disney, Vodafone, EMI, BBC and Carat. Recent projects have seen the virtual marketing developments for: 20th Century Fox, Buena Visa International, Warner/Chappel, Universal, BBC, Mtv, Fender Stratocaster.

  • SNOOPYbrown Zamboni (Jeff Paffendorf), Electric Sheep Company’s futurist in residence. He is currently leading Electric Sheep's founding involvement in ASF's Metaverse Roadmap Project and helps curate the Second Life Community Convention, State of Play, and Accelerating Change conferences.

  • Cristiano Midnight (Cristiano Diaz), a member of Second Life since December of 2002, created one of SL's first and longest running third party sites, SLuniverse.com in 2003. In 2004, he launched an in-world business called ANOmations, and in early 2005, he developed the Snapzilla web site.

  • Zero Grace (Tony Walsh), speaker, writer, and cultural critic behind SecretLair.com and ClickableCulture.com.

  • Hempman Richard (Paul Hemp), a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. He is the author of the HBR’s recent article "Avatar-Based Marketing?"

  • Hamlet Au (Wagner James Au), covers Second Life society journalistically at the new New World Notes. Works as an SL consultant for both for-profit and non-profit companies, including Rivers Run Red and Creative Commons.

    The event was moderated by Ansible Berkman (Rodica Buzescu), a recent graduate of Harvard College and the manager of Berkman Center's presence in Second Life.

    The following transcript has been edited for clarity. Changes to the raw log may include punctuation, capitalization, order of replies, spelling. Some off-topic conversations have been omitted. Please leave a comment if you find a mistake. All hyperlinks and emphasis added by me.

  • part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Panel on Marketing to Virtual Avatars, Part 2

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Ansible Berkman:
    We shall begin with a small blurb from each panelist on a very broad question I'll ask them and then the conversation will be open to the audience. Please right-click on me and send me a note if you would like to participate. I'll hold a queue of individuals and call on you when the person before you has finished "speaking".

    This panel has the incredible task of answering a very basic and yet large question: do virtual worlds present a significant marketing potential for real-life companies? We shall leave the moral debate on this topic for another discussion. For now, I would like invite you to frame your answer to this important question from a marketing/logistical and even technical standpoint.

    Let's start with Paul Hemp/Hempman Richard, the author of the Harvard Business Review article. He'll give us a short overview of what he has written and why he wanted to bring together such various minds to chime in on this issue

    Hempman Richard: Okay, well, I'm most interested in hearing what others on the panel and those in the audiences have to say about my argument that virutual worlds and games represent an unexplored opportunity for marketers of RL companies, and that avatars are in some way distinct consumers from their creators. That is, that we're not just talking about the "where " of a new mareketing frontier but the "who".

    Ansible Berkman: Let's go over to Zero Grace aka Tony Walsh.

    Zero Grace: I think it's worth exploring not only this virtual world of Second Life, but also other virtual worlds as well... Uh, anyway, I guess I was going to say that it's valuable to compare and contrast the varying landscapes in order to determine viability, etc. Also I'm wondering where the typist ends and where the avatar begins, in terms of being a consumer that can be targeted.

    Ansible Berkman: I'm intentionally skipping Hamlet a bit and moving on to Cristiano.

    Cristiano Midnight: Well, to expand on what Tony said, I do think that each environment is different and more or less viable for various reasons – SL, I think, presents the most comprehensive environment to explore this issue in. No other environment I can think of offers the depth of content creation that SL does. That said, I think any company that comes along and does not understand the environment and just treats it as another marketing venue is doomed to fail. I think, for example, the way that American Apparel has entered SL has been a very interesting and effective thing - I knew nothing of their company beforehand, and the clothes are actual clothes I would wear on my avatar. So at least marketing to me, they were quite effective -- I would be more inclined to explore their RL offerings as well.

    Ansible Berkman: Thanks Cris, very good intro to your perspective on this. Hamlet?

    Hamlet Au: The potential for marketing in online worlds is truly staggering, especially when you take the definition beyond straight up MMOs like World of Warcraft or user-created worlds like Second Life. For example, there's Habbo Hotel in Europe and Cyworlds in South Korea, both much more limited avatar-driven experiences, but online worlds all the same. For that matter, even MySpace and other Web-driven interfaces have MMO aspects as well. But today we're also seeing some clear examples of issues need to consider.

    Online worlds very much involve social contracts in the sense meant by Nozick and Rawls, to cite two great Harvard alums. And creating a world that's ideal for marketers *and* its subscribers is a matter of finding a balance between Nozick's libertarian society and Rawls' free society with government assistance (i.e., the company in this case.) So when the social contract fails or becomes too restrictive, the dangers emerge. As we see in Cristiano's decision to close down his Snapzilla today, very much the Flickr of Second Life, in protest of Linden Lab's recent changes to the billing policy. This is actually a good thing for the vibrancy of the world, just like the tax revolt of three years ago was. Hopefully LL and the residents will strike a compromise between their interests. The larger moral for marketers is to understand in online worlds, especially user-created worlds like this one, the consumer is also the creator, and you have to work with them together on creating a worthwhile experience.

    Ansible Berkman: Now, moving on to Snoopy.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: First thoughts. Virtual worlds face what i call "the gravity of reality" (truly a force) on a number of fronts. A couple of big ones: As people spend more time using virtual worlds that are web-connected, they'll want to sew them into the rest of their lives -- identity, friendship, and work-wise. So it makes sense for outside offerings to come in and mingle with the homegrown fruit. It's natural. Over time that distinction will blur. Also the massively multi-player VW industry itself is changing. We're moving from Blizzard's throwing $100 million top-down at fantasy games like World of Warcraft to much smaller amounts of money; going into smaller, flexible, networked virtual environments like we see with Second Life and soon Multiverse and others.

    Environments where anything can be built, not just dragons, and real life money is encouraged to come on in. Real life companies will contribute to that development, creating their own "3d websites", coupling virtual and real versions of their products, testing out designs, styles, and campaigns in VWs, and ultimately taking products from the VW and making them real.

    Ansible Berkman: Fizik?

    Fizik Baskerville: I think we should step back a bit, ask why suddenly the interest. The larger media companies have been searching for an alternative to the 'interruption model' or the classic 30/90 second TV commercial. They've been talking and needing a place for a 'real' brand immersion experience. Platforms like SL are the perfect place. The issue is, making sure that the brand immersion experience is built and created from the communities wants and needs.

    Also, whenever something takes 'time', in this case the time absorption taken into VW. Companies will know that the time spent is valuable and a commodity of trade. In short, the VW experience is the brand immersion experience; that’s an exciting new era for most of the media companies and brands.

    Ansible Berkman: And last but not least, Razor, the American Apparel representative.

    Razor Rinkitink: Hello everyone. My RL name is Raz Schionning and I live and work in Los Angeles. I'm the Web Director for American Apparel - so I oversee our web sites, web development, and online marketing. AA opened the doors to Lerappa Island and our SL store a week ago and we're very excited about it.

    Why did we do it and what do we hope to achieve? On a personal level I see Second Life as a budding example of the evolution of the “web experience”. The potential is amazing and very compelling. The constant expansion and participation is energizing. Our store in Second Life is an experiment in how we may establish relationships with our customers in this evolving medium. To speak like a marketing person for a moment, I see a strong overlap between SL users and AA consumers. They are sophisticated, educated, have money to spend, and fall into our target age range. So it makes sense to investigate how we can speak to this community. Not unlike the way we approach any potential audience in order to grow our business.

    That said, I have few expectations about generating significant revenue right now – it's not the objective at this point. As with all the marketing we do, we’re being innovative and keeping our ears to the ground; we want to see how people will respond to our presence in SL.

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Panel on Marketing to Virtual Avatars, Part 3

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Ansible Berkman:
    And now, we already have a few questions lined up. Let's see what the audience has to say. Divo?

    Divo Dapto: My question is what essentially is the difference between the real world and virtual words - from a marketing communications perspective? In other words, what opportunities do virtual worlds offer that real world does not?

    Hamlet Au: Marketers need to be playful, need to embrace the fantasy aspect, need to embrace the ability to suddenly morph into a squirrel with a jetpack or just like I did, jump on the table and start playing air guitar.

    Fizik Baskerville: Most of our clients are interested in developing brand equity, not sell directly, therefore, the gap between RL and VW marketing is really blurred.

    Boliver Oddfellow: If I might make so bold the key to reaching today’s end users in this marketing space can be summed up in the words: don’t sell me, play with me.

    Fizik Baskerville: By building a relationship and creating content that adds values, it’s a two way dialogue. As Boliver just said, its about giving 'props' for people to add value to their VW experience. Very much as we've just done with the BBC and 20th Century Fox.

    Tetherdown Book: My consumption in VR worlds is friction free, so I've gone nuts - bought houses, clothes, shoes galore. In the real world, I can't buy a stamp, I hate shopping so much. So there is a giddy quantity to virtual consumption which is playful.

    Boliver Oddfellow: Which begs the question re retailers entering this space like AA, is taking a “if we build they will come” approach enough or do you have to imbue your sim with some sort of playful corp culture?

    Ansible Berkman: We can move on to Jeff's question.

    Jeff Wakawaka: First, I wanted to say hi to all of the panelists and that I'm very excited I got to come see this. I've been talking about it at the office all week and everyone now thinks I'm a freak because I nearly wet myself over a virtual panel discussion on avatar-based marketing.

    Anyway, I know that both American Apparel and Rivers Run Red, as well as a host of other companies (both virtual and real) that I haven't mentioned have created branded experiences within Second Life. From an advertiser's perspective, what are the types of quantitative results (specifically with regards to engagement) that I should expect from doing something similar? And what recommendations does each of the panelists have for balancing both an advertising client's interests with maintaining the cultural integrity of Second Life?

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Last question is interesting because many of the groups wanting to get in from the outside aren't interested in the 250,000 "accounts" currently in sl but want to build a space that their existing communities can come into. They don't want to disturb or in many cases even interact w/ an existing culture here.

    That's unique to sl w/ its country metaphor but that is changing too. See the flight to islands -- it'll be a flight to networked spaces soon.

    Hamlet Au: I think Second Life has long passed the days where it was a hothouse utopia where any hint of the outside world, especially the corporate for-profit world, causes much of a ripple. Now the challenge is to create cool, lasting, *exciting* experiences--and the companies are competing on an equal level with the best creators in SL.

    Hamlet Au: "causes a giant controversy", I meant to say. Now, corporate involves "causes scarce a ripple".

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Resistance has systematically fallen. Been fascinating to watch. I remember the days when you couldn't get an island. Fizik here got the first
    and some ppl thought the sky was falling!

    Boliver Oddfellow: That is THE key: if you don’t make your corp presence here both interactive and immersive so that you provide the end user with a brand positive experience then you are truly missing the boat.

    Ansible Berkman: Goh, you had a comment about spamming, which may be appropriate now?

    Goh Mfume: Ah, yes. There are concerns about commercial spam and adverts entering VWs... but it's a bit ironic that spam and adverts are already here...just look at what players have done in SL. billboards everywhere.

    Fizik Baskerville: In RL, the real media companies are finding it hard to sustain results via 'billboard advertising.

    Glitchy Gumshoe: Isn't it just that putting up billboards is a lot cheaper and easier to do then designing environments?

    Goh Mfume: It's already here, and companies will have to compete with all the individual entrepreneurs to be heard.

    Cristiano Midnight: To address Jeff's question, as well as the issue of spam...again I think that any RL company that comes into the enviroment and does not understand it is doomed to fail.

    Boliver Oddfellow: The real world company that comes in here and [does] strictly a billboard campaign will learn very quickly why you don’t alienate the consumer base. It’s suicide.

    Razor Rinkitink: Look at early web pages with blink tags and crawling marquees. It takes time to learn subtle techniques.

    Cristiano Midnight: Second Life residents especially have been very sensitive to the encroachment of the big bad RL business...not in the forms we see, but in the dreaded form of Coke billboards spread all across SL and plastered on buildings.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Most companies (to generalize) coming in from the outside should have their own private space, an island, and invite ppl to come to them.

    Cristiano Midnight: Companies that really get SL and understand how to take a more lifestyle approach to their marketing will have far more success than those who just treat SL as another ad buy opportunity.

    Fizik Baskerville: Actually just one thing. In RL billboards rely on 'footfall' and 'eyesballs' to work, in SL we have no major routes or areas that fit that RL convention. Therefore it really shouldn’t be a problem here, especially since p2p tp.

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Panel on Marketing to Virtual Avatars, Part 4

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Ansible Berkman:

    Susi Spicoli: Do you think that we will go beyond traditional marketing: participation in product development, open-source like, which makes traditional marketing obsolete to some extent because consumers are designing their own products? For example, a bank might design (with users)/test their future offering incl branch lay-out, which then already will have a strong in-world following which will spill into the RL. Finally, you might get some great international ideas fertilization (easy in SL), what if Italian customers would give comments and ideas on American Apparel?

    Glitchy Gumshoe: Yeah, has any one company (besides the defeat george bush guy) ever tried to market anything to the entire SL population?

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: I'm interested in sl as a test bed for rl products/creations.

    Csven Concord: I think we'll see some of that happen. There's a recent entry on the Mass Customization blog that gets to some things being tried in Europe but I think that most people aren't aware of how much tedious stuff goes into products and so there will always be some "professional" stuff that isn't really done in a collaborative way but mostly because no one wants to do it!

    Susi Spicoli: That's what people said before Linux and the success of open source.

    Csven Concord: The difference between Linux and designing the boring, legally necessary font on an iron are a ways apart, imo.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Coming up on the xbox 360, as I understand it, you'll be able to design your Nike sneakers in a basketball game using the id system, then have a real pair shipped to you.

    Csven Concord: I have a source at Nike. And when they first introduced their shoes in NBA 2k6, the word was that it would be linked - eventually - to the website not seen it yet, but I expect it'll soon happen.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Stylehive has some of that, virtual-real coupling of merchandise.

    Hempman Richard: That goes back to my hobby horse: does the fact that we're avatars allow US to try stuff out that we might not try in rl? And get used to it and then buy the product in rl?

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: I love your idea that avatars double the consumer but... you can also have multiple avs all trying out different avenues of self expression.

    Razor Rinkitink: We have certainly talked about trying things in SL that would be difficult to test in RL. Store layouts and even clothing concepts would be interesting to test. But it would be important to remember that the SL audience is rather different from the RL at-large. So how much of that could feed back into RL is not clear.

    Fizik Baskerville: We're working with a lot of our clients in SL doing exactly that, Raz.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: But when you are using sl to model, it doesn't matter who's here now, right? You just use it to sketch and design and then show it to ppl, in sl or out.

    Hamlet Au: The challenge with testing real life designs is presenting it in a way that's fun, a kind of game. Otherwise, people will get bored and fly (literally!) off in search of something that is fun.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Yes and no, Hamlet. It depends on if they're shopping for their real life selves, in which case they're going to want things that would, erm, "fly" in the real world and a realistic avatar to boot. One thing I'm very interested in is the recreation of real life in VWs.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: An avatar that reflects your appearance, when you want that for dating, trying things on, doing business, etc.

    Hamlet Au: I dunno, SNOOP, I think even then the constraints (or freedoms) of the world will impose themselves. For example, has anyone here ever tried walking, just walking, through an SL building? It gets frustrating. You get stuck in doorways. You eventually just want to fly or teleport to wherever you were headed, most times.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: That's because sl is limited atm lol. Have you driven down the streets of Grand Theft Auto? Runs like a breeze. Oh, and of course p2p teleport, but it'll get easier to run around

    Ansible Berkman: You're ok running in SL too, as long as the building space is large enough. maybe it's a matter of better designing the space.

    Ansible Berkman: If no one else wants to add here, Jangles...your question please?

    Jangles Junot: Thanks, Ansible. This is quite an experience. So a question for Razor... If you could buy apparel in the AA store here and get it in the real world, that would be interesting... is that in your thinking? I'm thinking of the impulse. you see something here and you want to buy it... so you order here rather than go to a browser and go to the website.

    Razor Rinkitink: It could go that way, but I'm not sure that a buying experience in SL connected to RL is ideal. I'm expecting that people will be curious enough to go out and see our stores and our online store for those types of transactions. But it makes sense to build a smooth transition.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: And razor, please please please get some posters of sexy avs up in rl aa stores and advertising ;)

    Jangles Junot: Yes, i'm thinking of that relationship, another facet to building it.

    Razor Rinkitink: I really do like that idea.

    Cristiano Midnight: It appears that the main grid has been attacked and the system may be taken down, so this island may go down as well soon.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: To the bat cave!

    Csven Concord: *gets camera out*

    Ansible Berkman: Until we're taken offline, let's proceed as planed.

    Razor Rinkitink: Before the world ends... anyone who feels like checking out our RL store, please visit: http://store.americanapparel.net ... and while you're at it, pop in the promo code BERKMAN and you'll get 15% off for the next couple of days.

    Komuso Tokugawa: Now, that's marketing to avatars!

    Hamlet Au: It's worth noting that grid-attacks like this are relatively rare but definitely worth considering in relation to how you create your marketing experience.

    Gideon Television: I think rl/sl purchase linking in the other direction is more likely - I buy an AA clothing article in RL and then can wear it in SL too.

    Razor Rinkitink: AA will do a discount in July off any item purchased SL... on that same item in RL. Going the other way is more... complicated. But could be done.

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Panel on Marketing to Virtual Avatars, Part 5

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Ariel Spoonhammer: A barrage of questions to Razor: How did the SL store get approved internally within AA? Why did you opt to sell clothes for what in SL is a significant amount of money instead of giving them away? Do you plan to advertise your store both in RL and SL? Do you think SL is the kind of place where AA's "risque" ad strategy can go even more "risque"?

    Razor Rinkitink: I remember when I pitched the idea to the creative team here - the people who handle our print and traditional marketing - they were totally perplexed and a little scared. But they were kind enough to give me the benefit of the doubt. And now they are very excited about the whole thing. It's been fun to see the come around. It's especially fun to see everyone creating SL accounts for the first time - the room erupts in giggles!

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Is the ceo in here?

    Razor Rinkitink: Our CEO, Dov Charney, is not on SL... yet

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: He's an avatar already! Interesting character :)

    Cristiano Midnight: I think, speaking as a consumer, the clothing at the AA store is in line with pricing in SL, especially given the fact that you get the same item in about 20 colors.

    Razor Rinkitink: The price is really just a token sum.

    Cristiano Midnight: I think it was important for you to not just give the clothes away though, for them to have some perceived value

    Razor Rinkitink: Yes, indeed. If they were giveaways they would have no value.

    Razor Rinkitink: About the ads... Can we be more risky? I think we need to be ourselves no matter where we are. It would be odd if we went R-rated in SL and I think it would not make sense.

    Cristiano Midnight: I would say you are already pretty close to that, without crossing the line into full on soft porn.

    Razor Rinkitink: Yes (chuckles) many would say that. And some people don't like that. I appreciate that perspective. We're not for everyone.

    Cristiano Midnight: I'm not saying I mind it, I just don't think it can get much more risque without crossing a line that wouldn't serve you well.

    Hamlet Au: I would even encourage more raciness, myself, which is, after all, kind of a roleplaying experience in itself. People want fashions that are a step or two (or three, or four hundred) from what they usually wear IRL.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: No one's talked about virtual sex appeal here yet, when that's such a big thing in rl.

    Razor Rinkitink: The boundaries are much broader and many things are possible, but I'm talking about maintaining a personality. Keeping the brand at the center regardless of the medium.

    Cristiano Midnight: Yes, Starbucks is Starbucks - you don't open up an adult version in SL called Starfucks if you are trying to maintain the brand

    Hamlet Au: Think American Apparel in Amsterdam, would be my advice. :)

    Razor Rinkitink: We are already in Amsterdam... and no brownies or ladies for hire.

    Ansible Berkman: Last question for today belongs to In Kenzo.

    In Kenzo: Good timing, too. I have a conference call in 15 minutes with a potential new partner. They know NOTHING of SL. My question regards how to explain the possibilities here in just a few words on a phone call....

    Csven Concord: One word: data

    Hamlet Au: "Second Life is MySpace meets YouTube meets Flickr meets World of Warcraft. Get on now or be left in the dust of Internet history."

    Razor Rinkitink: You'll need to send them some screenshots at the very least, because any description you can dream-up will fall short.

    Cristiano Midnight: I think the two most compelling things that really show the potential of SL quickly are screen shots and video. I know that Linden Lab has often used Snapzilla to show off what SL is, because the pictures are often very evocative

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: "like an open-ended video game with no game, where you can build anything and connect to the web."

    Cristiano Midnight: I don't think you can explain SL to someone really, other than in very broad strokes, or in sort of obtuse ways.

    Cristiano Midnight: However, showing my mother Snapzilla, she understood what SL is at least to a degree that she could wrap her mind around it.

    Hempman Richard: How do you show them that there is something conceptually interesting before they freak out on the photos?

    Boliver Oddfellow: All I say is log in and see.

    Cristiano Midnight: I would say that the initial user experience is so bad that just saying "try SL" is not a compelling way to get someone to envision it.

    SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: At first ppl think you actually have to pretend the whole time :)

    Csven Concord: When I explain that to someone, I ask them if they've ever seen on the News a story with a 911 call and if they felt ... touched or affected by the voice. That's television - a passive medium - giving the viewer something less connected to them than what they'll have in here. It's difficult to comprehend, but seeing how we react to other "virtual" things helps.

    In Kenzo: I think SL has the potential to bridge out to TV audiences, to convert them into active participants.

    Razor Rinkitink: What a potential customer really wants to see and hear is a group of users around the computer who have never seen it before. The excitement it produces is amazing. As I sit here people have been gathering around with slack-jaws.

    Hamlet Au: Another shorthand I use: "It's like playing Legos (tm) with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world."

    Cristiano Midnight: Very naughty Legos.

    part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    American Apparel's Store in Second Life: First Impressions

    The second biggest news of the week after Bill Gates' retirement was about American Apparel opening a store in Second Life. The store got ink in Forbes, and other mainstream media are sure to follow soon since in-game advertising is suddenly a hot topic.

    So, the store is located on the Lerappa sim (that's "apparel" spelled backwards, see on map). Two floors, floodlights, a terrace. High ceilings to allow comfortable fly-ins.

    Winning over the new consumer is what Aimee Weber, one of the store's creators, does best.

    Blurred borders: the AA's Fine Jersey T dress on the web, pictured on the display (modelled both in real life and in SL), on the racks and on customer. When you touch the display, a dialog pops up inviting you to check the corresponding webpage. The real life dress costs US $26, the Second Life version costs 350 in Linden playmoney, or about $1.

    Changing rooms. I think the images on the walls are rotating, but am not sure. Otherwise, this area seems to be more for decoration, that is, you can't touch anything here and buy it.

    The first floor of the store. Aimee said the Second Life outlet is not an exact replica of any particular store because the real-life layout is not very suitable for the virtual world. Makes sense.

    The second floor of the store. You can't click on the actual outfit you see on the racks; you need to click on the corresponding displays.

    The screens in the left show a looping video of some dude playing an instrument. The credits say the video is AA's copyright.

    More coverage and screens:
    . . . earlier posts on Second Life. Cross-posted on AdLab.

    Sunday, June 4, 2006

    HBR: Avatar-Based Marketing

    Paul Hemp at Harvard Business Review finished his article on avatar-based marketing (they do have long lead times at HBR). Here's a corresponding podcast and Paul's interview with Ad Age. The core idea: "Companies spend large sums trying to segment, reach, and influence potential customers. They should think about targeting those customers’ online alter egos, as well."
    Tony Walsh from Clickable Culture commented, and so did Garrett French at Search Engine Lowdown.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Data: Gamers Not Averse to In-Game Ads

    Study by comScore, press release, May 16, 2006. Also in Marketing Vox. Verbatim highlights from press release:

    The Players research found that 25% of Gamers are Heavy Gamers, playing 16 or more hours per week across any gaming platform, or playing 11 hours or more per week and playing on two or more platforms.

    Light/Medium Gamers -- those that play less than 16 hours per week on one platform -- represent 75 percent of Gamers.

    Approximately 17 percent of Gamers are in the hard-to-reach age group of 18-24 years old, while another 23% are in the advertising sweet-spot age segment aged 35 to 44 years old. One-in-five (20 percent) have an annual income over $75,000 per year, and the typical Gamer has been gaming for about 9 years, and has been online for about 8 years.

    Gamers are equally split along gender lines.

    More than 50 percent of Heavy Gamers and one-third of Light/Medium Gamers are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of in-game advertising.

    Specifically, when asked about their attitudes towards games with advertisements, only 15 percent of Heavy Gamers claimed they would be "unlikely" to play games that included such product placements. In contrast, more than twice as many Heavy Gamers (33 percent), said they would be "likely" to play those games, while fully 52% of Heavy Gamers and 56% of Light/Medium Gamers stated that the inclusion of advertising would have no impact on their likelihood of playing a game.

    The Players study is conducted using comScore's unique dual-mode methodology that combines passively observed online behavior and attitudinal information for the same consumers. Wave I of the survey portion of the Players Study collected attitudinal information from 800 Gamers from February 13 - 27, 2006. Additional waves will be fielded throughout 2006.