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Thursday, October 05, 2006

New Media: Virtual Worlds as the Next Realm of Advertising?

AV: I've posted a few times here about big brands and agencies getting into Second Life. In a recent paper, Brand Channel discusses how SL, video games, and other 'virtual worlds' may be shaping up to be the next big thing in advertising.

"What do Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, the W Hotel and the American Cancer Society all have in common? They all use a virtual realm to reach out to potential customers and supporters in novel ways. Today, traditional media captures less attention from the younger generation—including the young at heart! New venues that address this demographic are evolving."

"One such approach to connect to this elusive audience is video game advertising. Consider Massive Corporation, which is now part of Microsoft. The premise of this organization is to reach "lost boys" (ages 18 to 34) who pay less attention to mainstream media. The advertising "spend" for this market segment is estimated at US$ 12 billion for television and another $10 million on static product placements in video games. The challenge for advertisers is a declining use of television due to other distractions (Internet, music, messaging) or simply "skipping" ads via TiVo or other recording devices. Another age-old problem for advertisers is the inability to directly measure results or return on investment (ROI)."

"Another untapped arena for advertisers is Virtual Worlds. Places like Second Life and Entropia Universe provide opportunities to interact and communicate with users in ways not achievable through traditional mediums. In these settings, individuals create a 3D "avatar" (human or fantasy characters) and through walking, flying or teleporting can explore unimaginable worlds. These virtual spaces take shape in numerous forms and may resemble a city street in Amsterdam, a walk through the Louvre in Paris, or standing on the bow of the Titanic—strike a pose as Rose or Jack! As part of your "second life," you may acquire land, build a house and shop at yard sales to buy clothes or home furnishings. Real dollars are exchanged in these worlds and the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred. In addition, you may form relationships with neighbors and groups that share similar interests or causes. Innovative organizations may create venues that interest this younger generation and weave their brand into the activity or environment."

"What is the real value of advertising in this new virtual world? First, consumers have the ability to experience things not currently possible in the real world. Product trials in virtual settings provide a low-risk environment for testing features and benefits. You can hire avatars to be product ambassadors and answer common questions. Also, you can demonstrate your 3D product or service in use. Live video and jpegs can add to the experience to help educate the user. In some cases, live feeds such as the Atlantis Shuttle launch can be viewed in some virtual settings."

"Could virtual environments be a just another channel for advertising or a viable community for consumerism? When blogging came on the scene, people dismissed it as a fad and characterized it was a soapbox for loonies! Today, organizations of all sizes closely monitor these sites and take what's being said very seriously. Could virtual worlds be the next medium for advertising?"

via brand channel

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