A Virtual World Campaign with Community in Mind

So much for “If you build it, they will come.”

As part of a national television, outdoor and Internet campaign, women’s portal iVillage has launched a presence in virtual world Second Life. Unlike many other in-world campaigns, the strategy driving the NBC-owned site’s activities there is based on the actual dynamics of the community.

Starting on December 14 and occurring every two weeks thereafter, a local resident will curate a “girls night out” inside Second Life, with a group of avatars that will all congregate at the iVillage loft on Sheep Island.

Over the course of the evening the group will visit two to four locations. Each destination will host either a tutorial, an event with music, or a speech by the person who owns the in-world locale. The evening ends with a discussion back at the iVillage loft.

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Avatars will gather at the iVillage loft, pictured, for a girls’ night out in Second Life.

“To be able to go into a virtual world and enable the avatars to communicate, to get together, for us is wonderful,” said Linda Boff, chief marketing officer for iVillage Properties. “This was a way to promote connection, to do it in a way that’s really what Second Life is about.”

The deployment was created by ElectricArtists, which also conceived and built an earlier Second Life campaign for Starwood Hotels and its new “aloft” hospitality brand. The virtual hotel opened its doors last August, fully a year before it will debut on Planet Earth.

The in-world effort contrasts with a slew of other advertiser forays into Second Life that have taken the form of branded destinations, such as a car lot or retail outlet. While iVillage has its “loft” there, its core idea in Second Life is outward bound and community driven.

According to Marc Schiller, CEO and founder of ElectricArtists, the goal with the iVillage work was to “take a brand that’s synonymous with women’s communities and use it to help people explore Second Life more deeply and celebrate great women inside the virtual world.”

Schiller also notes that nearly half of Second Life avatars are female, though he acknowledges some of those are created and steered by men.

“We knew this wasn’t about first-person shooters and 16-year-old kids,” he said. “It’s really about exploring environments. We want to continue to create new properties in Second Life that play against what might be a growing backlash.”

A separate blog will track iVillage’s involvement with Second Life.

Other elements of the iVillage national branding campaign include four TV spots, outdoor advertising and banner placements. The broadcast executions show women dealing with humorous or exasperating public situations, then discussing them online at iVillage.

iVillage has also given customized shirts away to women in influential professions, or as Boff puts it, “women who have megaphones.” Yoga instructors, bloggers and DJs are on the list. One shirt being handed out to female bartenders reads, “i see you. i will get to you. i said i will get to you.”

The effort coincides with the launch of “iVillage Live,” a new talk show that will be simultaneously broadcast and streamed online.

Kirshenbaum bond + partners Is the lead agency on the integrated campaign, iVillage’s first in five years.

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