Metrics, IBM and Dancing Avatars at the Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo

Virtdance.JPGAmidst the dancing women in body suits and the corresponding avatars tracking their movements onscreen, the attendees and businesses at the Virtual World Conference and Expo in San Jose this week all seem to agree that virtual worlds are still clearly in their infancy, and have lately been getting a bad rap.

While they acknowledged that there are clearly a lot of marketing efforts that have failed spectacularly in virtual worlds like Second Life, as cited by ClickZ’s own Editor-In-Chief Rebecca Lieb recently, they insist virtual worlds shouldn’t be counted down and out quite yet.

“Seven out of 10 businesses fail in the real world, and over 15 years it’s nine out of 10,” said Jared Freedman, president of Code 4 Software. “You’re going to see a lot of losses.”

Even so, several companies used the show to release tools and software efforts to help bolster marketers’ and advertisers’ ability to track and manage virtual campaigns online. Code 4 Software quietly started offering its AdSoft SL Powered Networks as an ad network system specifically for Second Life. Although the company will officially launch the system November 15th, Code 4 customers can now purchase ad space in the virtual world which the company monitors and tracks using its own V-Tracker application. V-Tracker will log how long a users’ avatar is near an advertisement, said Freedman. “It tells you how many people came, where they went, what they did,” he said. “I’ll need to know how long you were there to get the impressions. Ad networks need to have verifiable return on investment.”

Another company, Clear Ink, is also tackling the metrics problem with Second Life’s virtual world by releasing Slogbase as an open source avatar tracking system. Slogbase uses beacons around a virtual marketing site that identifies the Second Life identity and position of avatars, and transmits the information to the Slogbase server via Second Life’s standard LSL code, according to Steve Nelson, EVP, chief strategy officer for Clear Ink (and is no relation to yours truly).

“As in all other marketing efforts, measurement is crucial to success. And we developed this because it’s what we needed,” said Nelson. He said Clear Ink decided to give Slogbase away free because “Part of what you’re doing by giving things away open source is that you’re helping the overall community.”

Second Life itself got a boost in its cachet through a partnership between IBM and Linden Lab, the creator of the virtual world. Together the two companies intend to develop open standard technologies and methodologies for 3D virtual worlds, with the eventual goal of creating interoperable virtual world platforms so users can bounce from one to the other.

And finally, at least one virtual world, There.com, used the show to crow over its recent success stories online. Not only did There.com sign teen publication CosmoGirl magazine to its service and will create a virtual village with fashion shows CosmoGirl readers, but it also released statistics from a recent promotion with music recording giant CMG. Following a 10-week period of virtual events with bands like Korn, Yellowcard, Mims and the Beastie Boys on There.com, the company said they saw 17,500 visits to the CMG virtual area, with 2,600 visits to the company’s minisite. It also sold 1,258 pieces of virtual merchandise from the events, according to Michael Wilson, CEO of There.com, who said that CMG surprised him by allowing them to discuss their results.

“They are willing to talk about it, so they must be proud of it,” he said.

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