Virtual Worlds Making Real Waves This Week With Conference Announcement And MTV Play

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I got an email invite from Chris Sherman (one of the guys behind SES – Search Engine Strategies) to a new conference called – Virtual Worlds Fall – Conference and Expo, which is taking place October 10th -11th , 2007 at the San Jose Convention Center. It made me laugh because I did not realize that I had already missed their inaugural event, Virtual Worlds 2007, which is taking place as we speak in New York.
In another email from AdWeek I saw this article: MTV’s Virtual Worlds Push, which waxes poetic about the troubling TV stations current entry into online virtual worlds. It says:
MTV is forging ahead with a major push to pipe its content into virtual environments, CNET’s reports. The network has rolled out virtual versions of Laguna Beach and The Hills. Next up: a virtual Pimp My Ride. By the end of the year, it expects to have a total of 3 million registrants for Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills.”
It’s been a couple of week since my last visit to Second Life (I wonder what Mitch Till does when Mitch Joel is engaged in the universe as opposed to the metaverse?), but I did hear on For Immediate Release – The Hobson and Holtz Report Podcast that Second Life sign-ups have crashed the four million mark and edging quickly towards five million (which has already come to pass).
When more people than even are proclaiming, “get a first life,” now more than ever Marketers and communications professionals need to perk their ears up and take their Avatars for a serious fly-by in Second Life – we have to learn this new territory… fast.
If conferences are convening and old-school TV media corporations are priming their virtual world experiences, Marketers will need to understand this new communications channel and, as far as I can tell, Avatar-based marketing may well become one of the more complex opportunities to successfully navigate.
Why would Avatar-based marketing be any different from marketing to consumers in an online social network or via other self-publishing environments? Avatars tend to really replicate who an individual “is,” or more appropriately, would like to “be.” I think Joseph Jaffe used to say that Second Life allows individuals to lead the lives they were “meant” to lead (i.e. by their own rules). Having an Avatar in a virtual world enables a person to live out their fantasy… and get away with it. If someone is slightly cynical in Real Life, we’re going to see multiples of it in Second Life.
Five million people (and that’s just Second Life) is a significant number. When web browsers first came online they faced the same kind of cynicism.
Here’s the billion dollar marketing question: what makes you think that virtual worlds (places like Second Life) will not become the next generation of web browsing?
I’m real serious about virtual worlds.
You should be too.


  1. Two words: digital divide. Right now virtual worlds require computer hardware and broadband connections which place them out of reach of a lot of people. For example, I do almost no marketing in Second Life because my gut, back of the envelope estimation is that the people in world right now are relatively well off, 25-34 year olds, which is the dead wrong demographic for my company.
    Until the system and network requirements for virtual worlds come down (or networks and hardware catch up), they’ll be largely inaccessible to the middle of the bell curve, and certainly the lower rungs of the economic ladder. If you look back to Web 0.9b, when Netscape was still NCSA Mosaic, you didn’t need much horsepower at all under the hood to browse – heck, you could use lynx at the UNIX terminal command line and be fine.
    What’s the low bandwidth, low cost, command line equivalent of virtual worlds? The answer to that question will get virtual world participation out of the inevitable coming plateau.

  2. That’s exactly how I was feeing towards SecondLife and what the BBC was talking about for a few years now.
    Of course, on the other hand, students in India commonly use cyber cafes to do their homework. Perhaps those cyber cafes also have SecondLife installed. So you could say where there’s a will, there’s a way but yes, until virtual world requirements come down, there’ll be a digital divide.

  3. I whole-heartedly agree with Christopher. On ATS 73, there was a comment (sorry, I can’t remember who it was from) that WOW and other virtual worlds seem to have the hardware issue figured out. Why can’t Linden get their act together?
    The thing that gets me is their graphic card/display standards for it to work. It basically eliminates a lot of the Dell computers. Don’t they realize how many PEOPLE this eliminates?
    I think that until they get the hardware issues worked out, the widespread adoption is going to be limited.
    That said, I think there is enormous opportunity in Second Life, but I don’t think that it will come in the ways that it is currently used where large companies set up an outpost and leave it. I think that things like Crayonville – where people gather and there are events designed to foster conversation holds the most benefit.

  4. Chris Penn wrote: “the people in (the Second Life) world right now are relatively well off, 25-34 year olds,”
    Oh boy, I have a deck a mile high of marketers who would l-o-v-e LOVE to get themselves in front of that exact (5M+) demographic…an example? Hair Care Product manufacturers….start going down that aisle of your supermarket or drug store and see which products are trying to touch that demographic…and spots on MTV or any of its siblings aren’t paying off the way they used to.
    Add to the mix demanded shareholder ROI and CMO’s know they MUST show a return on investment and PROVE the worthwhile expenditure…not just on sales but on building the darn brand. You know for silly things….like brand extensions!!!
    The challenge and the test will be how willing / accepting second lifers will be to expanded commercialization (product placement et al) of their world.
    If it can all be merged together cohesively…wizz, bang, POW, we’ll have ourselves a brand new marketing ball game!

  5. This all reminds me of the early Internet days with all the many protocols and tools that never inter-connected.
    It will change, virtual worlds will soon become one standard and, I have hopes, that this type of experience will become more like web browsers than anything else.
    All that being said, it will never take hold until the average person’s computer can run it. It reminds of the early days of PCs in the home. Some stuff could be done, most stuff was just not workable due to limited CPU… remember, CPU issues are ALWAYS resolved.

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