CSI Goes Virtual to Track a Killer

Zuiker.JPGIn his real world presentation at the Virtual World Convention today in San Jose, the creator of CBS’s popular crime show franchise CSI, Anthony Zuiker, detailed his plans to take his real world show and plunge it into the virtual world of Second Life, all while inviting advertisers along for the ride.

Zuiker, speaking as the opening keynote presenter for the show, explained that characters from his CSI: New York television show will chase a murder suspect online during its October 24 episode. As part of that show, and two :30 spots that will run with it on CBS, viewers are going to be invited to log onto a specially designed section of the virtual world created by digital agency The Electric Sheep Company, which CBS took an investment stake in earlier this year.

More than just a plot line gag, Zuiker explained that (spoiler alert!) the villain from the upcoming episode will manage to escape investigators during the shows cliffhanger season ender, and then return when the show begins again in February. In the meantime, viewers are going to be able to hunt for the killer, CSI style, in the virtual world. In fact he’ll provide new killers to start hunting every month.

What interested me however, was the fact that those virtual investigators will be using a “Cisco Teleconferencing Center” to process the clues they find online. And Zuiker invited advertisers to come and talk to him about putting their products within his virtual world, joking that everybody from consumer goods firms to caffeinated drink companies can have a kiosk where investigators could gather.

“Why? Cause investigators need to be caffeinated to solve crime,” he joked.

I did ask Zuiker how advertisers can successfully put their brands online in a virtual world, especially considering the spate of bad press such efforts have seen lately, but he said having the backing of CBS air time will bring in viewers and having engagement online will keep them there.

“Some product are not happening in Second Life cause there’s no interaction,” Zuiker told me. “The key to do this is to feature things on air, and then in a gaming mechanism in the world so the product is in use. Not just background that no one is going to pay attention to.”

As to who the killer is in the upcoming episode? I’m not telling.

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