Marketers of the Metaverse Grapple with Practices

The opportunities for marketers entering Second Life, There, Habbo an other metaverses were heavily discussed at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in New York this week, but there was little consensus about the right approaches for brands.

If someone said 20 years ago how big a role the Internet was going to play in everyday lives, 99.5 percent of the population would have found that crazy, according to John Donham, VP of production at Areae. He believes the same is true in regards to the future of virtual worlds.

Though development and popular use of virtual worlds is arguably in an early stage, advertising executive Greg Verdino, VP and director of emerging channels at Digitas, said he is bullish on the metaverse. “Not for what it is today, it’s small and kludgey; for what it ultimately becomes: the 3D Internet.”

Verdino believes it won’t replace the 2D Internet, but the two will work hand in hand. While the workings of in-world operations continue to be developed, “brands are short-sighted not to experiment in 3D Channels,” he said.

Environments touting brand lift include MTV, which recently licensed technology from There to release virtual versions of its shows “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills,” and will soon introduce an area for “Pimp My Ride” in its world.

“Our research shows that 99 percent of our audience is exposed to brands, and 85 percent chooses to interact voluntarily with the brand in a two-week period,” said Matt Bostwick, SVP of franchise development at MTV.

A brand integration into Second Life said to be among the more sticky in-world marketing experiments is a venue The Electric Sheep Company created for the Showtime series “The L Word.” In-world residents frequenting Showtime’s environment averaged four visits a week, and spent approximately 20 minutes per session. “Retention is off the charts,” said Sam Landman, director of business development at The Electric Sheep Company.

Showtime recently began renting condos branded for “The L Word” near its site for $12 U.S. per month, which reportedly sold out quickly.

One message to brands resonating throughout the two-day conference is not to port real-world products and messages straight into the virtual community, but to modify it to fit into the world.

“The key to exploring virtual worlds: Don’t just make the same object you make in the real world, make it playful and fun,” said Jeska Dzwigalski, community developer at Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life.

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