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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Trend: Agencies Move into Second Life

Following in the footsteps of Leo Burnett, Bartle Bogle and Hegarty has announced that they will be getting into the SL mix.

"Advertising agency BBH (aka Bartle Bogle Hegarty) — whose client roster includes companies like Levis, Vodafone, Johnny Walker, and Sony Ericsson, among others — is setting up shop in the virtual world of Second Life, according to a press release from the company. The agency is being brought in by virtual-world services company Rivers Run Red, who will also have a hand in developing virtual offerings for the company’s client base, it seems. The build (which looks great, based on the pic above) sounds like a full-function SL office installation — complete with avatar receptionists!

According to the press release, “The BBH office will be a functioning office, with client meetings and new business presentations. Departments have planned activities across the building. The agency will be holding seminars with speakers from the agency. More broadly, BBH will be hosting forums with Second Lifers to discuss challenges and involve these digital advocates in new business problems. Avatars of BBH’s receptionists will be manning the front desk.”

The office will be located on an island sim currently being set up for BBH. While the press release boasts that BBH will be “the first advertising agency to open a virtual office within Second Life,” public relations and marketing concerns have preceded BBH, though this is certainly the first entrance of such a high-profile real-world ad outfit. It will be interesting to see just how BBH uses the platform, whether they market to avatars, leverage the platform for a real-world PR boost, do some futuristic branding or some combination of all those ideas and more."


AV: BBH's move into SL seems to take a bit of a different approach than that of Leo Burnett. While the latter has described itself (and been described) as more of a 'community for worldwide agency creatives' to collaborate and function in the virtual world, the BBH effort is more in the vein of a full-out shop functioning just as its counterpart does here in reality. I suppose the move of agencies into SL is logical given that high power brands such as ADIDAS have staked their claim in the virtual territory.

I've posted a few times here on Second Life and the more I read about it the more intriguing I find it. The sheer scope of it is incredible, and the 'user-generated' world really has elevated SL to a level that other online communities, virtual worlds and the like don't really compare to. The big question now is what will be the impact on the bottom line? Sure this is great for exposure and a new way to connect in consumers lives, but is there a clear business result? I would think there has to be one, otherwise we wouldn't have traditional and patently risk-averse companies such as Wells Fargo diving into the fray...we'll have to see whether these are just high expectations that go unfulfilled or strategic business moves that produce solid results.

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