Meet Ariel Spoonhammer, my guide in the intricate and improbably world of Second Life. The goal of the journey is to explore the many ways in which real-world and fictional brands are present in this world, catalog various media that enable communications and transactions between residents, and to identify advertising approaches that can be imported into other similar environments.
My first day was already very eventful. After a brief in-game orientation, I took advantage of the Ariel's flying abilities and set off to find the famed billboards and the first in-game advertising agency that operates them. When I saw colorful patches that looked remotely like posters, I landed, and it turned out to be an art gallery. My first acquaintance was a feline character Firefury, sporting what looked like a Samurai sword and a can of - surprise - diet Pepsi. The Pepsi came with a custom animation script that allowed the avatar to take nonchalant sips every once in a while. Among his other branded possessions was a black Lamborghini Arachnid, a copy of which was later graciously bestowed upon me. Worldly possessions are not a burden in this world and they all fit in a pocket (the "inventory" folder).
Firefury sips his favorite Diet Pepsi.
I have also visited a bar owned by a resident couple. The eerily flat automated bartender offered a drink menu (command-activated text) that featured a very authentically looking Corona beer. A Budweiser neon sign buzzed from the wall, and a Coke machine adorned the interior, although its functionality remains to be explored. Apparently, all of the items were created by the players, although a product placement by Corona, Budweiser or Coke would seem like a very natural fit. Although many of the world's items cost a certain amount in Linden dollars, the world's currency, the drinks in the Passions were free. Could be owners' strategy to lure customers into a bar with hope that they will buy more expensive items - poseballs in the bar but also other goods in the surrounding mall owned by the same people. It seems that the in-game alcohol doesn't have the inebriating effect, although I did experience longer lag times after a few bottles. Could've been just me, though.
Ariel Spoonhammer enjoys an authentic-looking Corona and a cigar served by a flat bartender in the Passions bar.
Spots at the yard sale are a scarce resource, so the goods on display are stacked up high, which interestingly doesn't present a problem since all avatars can fly, an important difference between fantasy merchandising and the real world. I haven't met a single live merchant at the sale as all of the vending is done with help of automated scripts. I took advantage of an offer of free clothes, equipping Ariel with a pair of black lace leather pants. These freebies could be interpreted as a generous gesture by the merchants towards the newbies, or a smart promotional tactic design to attract crowds to the stands. Much of the displayed art is clickable and would teleport Ariel to the merchants' other stores. The "Yard Sale" sign hangs in mid-air and slowly rotates counterclockwise and is clearly visible by the flying public.
Unreal merchandising: top-shelf goods attract flying audience.
One other interesting part of the Second Life's retail structure are niche stores, such as the one pictured below that specializes in "cuddly" furniture and ambience-enhancing paraphernalia. Most of the items comes with a set of poseballs - specially designed movement scripts that extend characters' range of movements and allow for a conspicuous display of enjoyment from the purchase.
Furniture Cuddle is one of the many specialty stores.
Immediate questions to answer:
1. Where can I buy Diet Pepsi - is it through the vending machines I saw?
2. Who made the items in the Passions bar? Why are the offered for free?