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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

User-Created: Inspiring a Car Culture Within Second Life

Reuters reports on the latest in corporate marketing ventures into the virtual world of Second Life. Pontiac is staking their claim, albeit in a slightly unexpected fashion. Their angle in is buying virtual real-estate: 6 virtual islands that they will lease out for "free" to residents in exchange for the promise that those new land-owners will breed a "vibrant car culture within the community".

Dubbed Morotari Island, Pontiac plans to issue out "parcels of land around Motorati Island to Second Life entrepreneurs and artists who wish to create their own projects devoted to car culture." Users who want to get in on the bid can go to the islands Morotari life website (still under construction), to pitch their ideas in hopes of getting a piece of the land on which to lay out their creations.

I think this is a good example of marketers realizing they need to be a part of the conversation in the world of new media and not try to take it over. Compared with other corporations that have simply set up shop within SL to operate as they would in the real-world, GM seems to have put more thought into what a brand may need to do to in order to truly integrate itself into this type of new media/virtual world atmosphere. Allowing residents to incorporate Pontiac as part of their own user-created projects provides for a much different level of interaction than simply seeing a billboard on the street or a sky-scraper on the horizon. Enhancing and facilitating a consumer experience rather than creating and controlling it for them. I like it.

From the article:

"Our mission is to work with the Second Life community to create a place for car lovers that doesn't exist today," said Mark-Hans Richer, marketing director at Pontiac. "However, our approach isn't to be a 'me too, marketer' and simply have a presence in the space. Rather, we want to empower the car community in Second Life and develop with them in a unique and meaningful manner. We aren't completely creating the experience -- the Second Life users are. We're just providing the inspiration."

In addition to the community based projects, Pontiac will create its own presence on the island. Plans are in development to build a futuristic Pontiac "dealership," selling customizable versions of the newly introduced Pontiac Solstice GXP. Owners can then test their new purchases on a high- performance test track, fully modify them and even showcase them in a public gallery. The Pontiac Garage music stage in New York City's Times Square will be replicated in this space and act as a venue for live music performances by real artists in the form of their Second Life avatars.

"Our hope is to unleash the community's passion for cars," said Tor Myhren, executive vice president, executive creative director at Leo BurnettDetroit. "We envision weekly competitive driving events, drive-in theaters playing car related films, machinima film studios, car-themed fashion shows, live concerts, drive-in restaurants, you name it. If an idea relates to any aspect of car culture, we intend to give the community the means to make it happen."

via Reuters

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