At the Advertising in Social Media Show: Second Life-Loving Agency Quitting Re-evaluating Second Life

Updated with correction

Well, this doesn’t bode well for brands in Second Life. ElectricArtists, an agency known for its work in virtual worlds, is taking the summer off from SL.

Speaking at ClickZ’s Advertising in Social Media conference yesterday, CEO Marc Schiller pointed out a variety of reasons advertising in Second Life might not be such a great idea for brands; and he said his own agency has put a moratorium on future deployments there.

Among other things, he said, “Second Life wasn’t scaling as fast as we would want. It’s not a great opportunity to get a big bang.”

He said campaigns in SL can be good for generating bits of buzz here and there, but marketers should take a hard look at whether their products are relevant to the environment. For instance, he said ElectricArtists eventually decided to close client Starwood’s prototypical Aloft hotel brand in SL after a launch and feedback gathering period, partly because Second Life residents don’t need to sleep and hence don’t need to stay in hotels.

Updated: Marc Schiller reached out to me and rightly noted the above implies Aloft was yanked from SL owing to a low usefulness to residents. That’s not the case. The project was intended from the beginning as a means of engaging with and gathering feedback from the SL community, a goal it accomplished. Schiller said his comment about SL residents’ not sleeping was meant as a joke. My bad.

Marc’s verbatim response:

Second Life is a terrific platform for brands to do many things. But it’s not a terrific platform for everything. For aloft, it was the perfect platform to help launch a new hotel brand by letting people interact with a new hotel concept that won’t be available to walk through in the real world until 2008. That was our intent in going into Second Life. To get feedback. But now that we’ve gotten the feedback, the focus has shifted for the aloft team from the virtual world to the real world. Because of this we decided to donate the land back to the Second Life community for them to use in a similar way to what aloft did back in September of last year –to innovate. My point about avatars not having to sleep in Second Life was that for aloft, building the hotel in Second Life was not about trying to recreate a real life experience in the virtual world. Avatars don’t need to sleep. We knew that going in. Rather our intent was to get feedback from people from all over the world on design decisions that would effect the real world hotel.

I did indeed say that I was disappointed that Second Life was not moving fast enough to make the experience more user friendly. I do think that this is an issue for brands. For a brand, the Second Life platform today is not much better than it was a year ago. My hope is that Second Life would scale quicker. For the most part it hasn’t. And because of this, I am more cautious today about Second Life then I was when we first launched aloft. My approach for many of my clients has been for them to evaluate how things progress this Summer before jumping in. The bottom line is that for brands, Second Life needs to be much more user friendly than it is now. That was the point that I was making.

… I think that [SL] can be a good place for brands to innovate, just as aloft did. What I don’t think its good for is to try to replicate who you are in the real world, in the virtual world. Second Life is not user friendly enough for that.

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