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Amazon Exec on Virtual World Shopping

Jeff Barr, web services evangelist at Amazon: "You can imagine a Second Life build where you have a concert or a musician that’s just done a live performance, or maybe an author who has done a book reading. Just as you’d walk out of a venue in real life and buy a book or a T-shirt or a CD, now you have the same ability in the virtual world — it’s contextual commerce. People love to do things that stay within the metaphor. So if you can say in character and if you’re essentially doing your shopping in avatar scale, that seems to maintain the quality of the experience." -- Reuters Earlier: Harvard Business Review: Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?

Nissan Puts Sentra Into Second Life

As promised last week, Nissan has just unveiled a Second Life extension of its campaign for Sentra. Here's the location's SL URL, and here are more details from Giff at Electric Sheep. I spent a few minutes on the sim before it went down as developers were apparently adding final touches, but here's what I saw:
A giant vending machine with very realistic action. The machine dispenses Sentras.
The car itself. Apparently customizable (although I am yet to figure how exactly) and driveable (ditto).
A decorative public bathroom. Haven't seen one before in SL, although this one was closed. Nice touch. There's also a driving course and a giant loop, but then the sim crashed so I don't have any pics.

Nielsen To Track Video Games

"Nielsen Media Research on Wednesday announced an electronic rating service to track who is playing what game. The data will be collected from the same 10,000 sample households used for Nielsen's television ratings. Subscribers such as advertisers and video game makers will get a weekly ratings reports and charts showing the most popular games, as well as information about the type of console and the genre of the game. Jeff Herrmann, vice president of Nielsen's wireless and interactive services division, said he expects the system will drive advertising investment and help convert video game advertising from discretionary to essential." -- AP, press release

IHT: Nissan Readies Entry into Second Life

"Meanwhile, Nissan is starting a promotion for its Sentra that allows Second Lifers to get their own digital versions of the car out of a gigantic vending machine and drive them around. Much of this is likely to be covered for the outside world by the news outlets CNET and Reuters, which now have reporters embedded full-time in the virtual realm." International Herald Tribune, "Virtual worlds are moving toward commercial reality", Richard Siklos, October 18, 2006

NY Times on Second Life, Outs Prok

"A Virtual World but Real Money", Richard Siklos, NY Times, October 19, 2006. NY Times does a large article on Second Life, which just passed the 1M registrations mark. Nothing you don't already know if you follow the space, but here's a nice thought that we come across more and more often: "The sudden rush of real companies into so-called virtual worlds mirrors the evolution of the Internet itself, which moved beyond an educational and research network in the 1990’s to become a commercial proposition — but not without complaints from some quarters that the medium’s purity would be lost." Then there's a discussion of the new concern that real companies' expansion into SL is akin to globalism in the RL. The article quotes Prokofy Neva and a reply by Philip Rosedale: Prokofy: "The next phase will be they try to compete with other domestic products — the people who made sneakers in the world are now in danger of being crushed by Adidas." "Mr. Rosedale says such concerns are overstated, because there are no advantages from economies of scale for big corporations in Second Life, and people can avoid places like Nissan Island as easily as they can avoid going to Nissan’s Web site. There is no limit to what can be built in Second Life, just as there is no limit to how many Web sites populate the Internet." Speaking of Prokofy Neva, the article has his (well, hers) real name and picture.

Nivea Gets Products Into Splinter Cell: Double Agent

"Nivea Does Video Game Tie-In with 'Splinter Cell'" October 16, Enid Burns, ClickZ. The game is brand new, so no good screenshots yet. Quotes from the article: "Nivea's first foray into in-game product placement injects its products into the covert world of Sam Fisher, the spy in UbiSoft's "Splinter Cell: Double Agent." The media buy includes product integration, static and dynamic placements, plus out-of-game ads. The marketing program features products from both Nivea and its partner in shaving, Philips Norelco, in a game space hotel bathroom. Beiersdorf agency RDA International conceived the creative to integrate with the game's themes. The in-game media buy [...] extends across online and offline channels. Nivea created a microsite, thegoodside.com to which all ads in the game and the Internet link. It offers information on Nivea products; Philips Norelco products using Nivea creams[.] Offline tie-ins include inserts in each retail box of the game which hypes the sweepstakes. The company also bought a print ad in the game's strategy guide published by Prima. The creative features a bottle of after shave made to look like a hand grenade with the message 'Balms away.'"

Hijacking Brand Space

The title here is a bit too dramatic, but it does illustrate a potentially much larger problem than the glitch at the Sun's new pavilion (it opened today in SL with a press conference; Millions of Us has more details and pics). After everybody had left, someone dropped a couple of betting balls on the premises, apparently counting on the post-event traffic. Earlier, Second Life Liberation Army picketed the American Apparel store to attract attention to its cause.

Industry Press Warms Up to In-Game Ads

Judging by the growing number of media clippings on the subject, I'm afraid in-game ads are turning into the next shiny thing. "Agency Avatars," AdWeek, October 9, 2006, Eleftheria Parpis. Quote from Leo's chief creator Mark Tutssel: "This is right on the edge of a new space." "Virtual Worlds: The Next Realm in Advertising?" Brand Channel, Bill Nissim, undated (Sept 2006?) "Video Games Now a Social Experience," Ad Age, Gavin O'Malley, October 5, 2006 "Leo Burnett Buys Space in Virtual World," Ad Age, Jeremy Mullman, September 28, 2006 "Advergaming: You Got It," Business Week, David Radd, October 10, 2006

Sun, Aloft, BBH Offices in Second Life

I had problems with posting pictures on this blog over the weekend, so I had to move my write-ups on SL's new branded spaces over to AdLab. Here's what you missed:

Wind-Up Records Runs T-Shirt Contest for Seether in Second Life

Wind-up Records (the label that produces Evanescence, I was glad to find out) and Millions of Us are running an in-world promo for the label's band Seether. From the press release: "Members of the Second Life community can visit the Seether venue where they can submit virtual t-shirt designs. The band will select the winning design, print real versions of the t-shirt and make them available in their official band merchandise store for fans in the real world to enjoy. All members of Second Life who travel to the virtual Seether venue will get a special coupon code for the band’s merchandise store and all contest entrants will also receive a virtual Seether poster and tattoo in Second Life." You don't actually have to be an "entrant" to get the poster. Just click on one of the signs. Anyway, one other interesting bit from the press release: "Seether are no strangers to supporting initiatives for their online fans with appearances on Xbox Live’s Game With Fame as well as a recent promotion made available to PSP users. Performances from the One Cold Night release and some of the band’s music videos were made available to PSP users via a unique network of gaming enthusiast websites created for gaming and music fans alike." I have two postcards from the Millions of Us sim with the Seether build, but Blogger is not in the mood to display them, so I'm temporarily leaching the file from Reuben's blog.

Anomaly's Office in SL

Piers from PSFK wrote in to point out that Anomaly (an ad agency in NYC) has had an office in SL long before Leo and BBH. I went to check it out and here's a post card. Their offices are at Tinjin, on an island across from PSFK's office.

Two Resident Articles on Marketing in Second Life

Linden Lifestyles, "Pimp Your Own Ride: SL Marketing 101": "98% of Second Life’s clothing, hair and shoe makers are absolutely crap at promoting themselves." Nicola Escher, "SL Marketing 102": "The crux of my post is: don’t underestimate in-world marketing and promotion." Plus, the new October issue of SL Business Magazine talks about radio advertising, in-world PR, and profiles Aimee Weber, and the three most prominent design/marketing companies that are bringing real-world brands into SL.

Wired on Adidas's Partnership with EA in NBA Live 07

"In-Game Ads Burrow Deeper," John Gaudiosi, Wired News, October 5, 2006 "Anyone who buys Electronic Arts' NBA Live 07 game on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 (when that console is released in November) will be able to unlock a host of new items and features in the game from Adidas Basketball. "In addition to the over 100 Adidas-specific elements hidden in the next-generation game, to be unlocked over time through simple codes distributed through retail, online and real-world NBA events like the All-Star Weekend and NBA Finals, Adidas will provide single-use unique codes that message its new marketing slogan, "It Takes 5IVE." "Acclaim is about to take product placement to another level with its free, ad-supported massively multiplayer online games next year. Game industry veteran Dave Perry, who's directing 2Moons for Acclaim and creating several additional MMO games, wants to open up the door for corporate-sponsored micro transactions. "When you buy a virtual item, we're going to do a search to see if any advertiser in real-time is willing to pick up the cost of that item," said Perry. 'If you want this sword, it would put up a message and ask if you would like Coca-Cola to buy this item for you.'" Below: screenshots from NBA Live 07 for Xbox 360 (source: Gamespot). Note how in some cases, the sneakers are Nike, in others - Adidas. Wonder if that's because of the licensing. Would be cool, though, if they could change the shoes dynamically. Update (a few hours later): On the other hand, it seems Adidas is out of luck because the NBA Live 07 game turned out buggy and crappy, pulling a measly 6.5 rating at Gamespot and a letter of protest by dissapointed fans: "For us however, NBA Live 07 is the final straw. The one that broke the camel's back. The spark that set the field ablaze. Until this release we overlooked any flaws in the game, ones that some of us considered major even if others of us considered them minor. But this release has ignited feelings that EA doesn't care about its fans, which is the reason we are writing today."

Second Life: Functional Corona Vending Machine for Sale

Love this ad on SL Exchange: "This Corona Vending machine will quickly pay for itself even in low traffic areas. It is the perfect visual addition to your club, casino, restaurant or even home! It is a fun vendor with a fun product. Easily earn $5L unlimited times over selling the copyable Corona drink inside the machine. A great investment oportunity to make some good money with minimal investment!"

Burger King Games for Xbox Confirmed

image credits: Kotaku Kotaku says the long-rumored Burger King games for Xbox will "sell $4 with the purchase of a value meal and will be on sale from Nov. 19 through Dec. 24." The titles are Pocketbike Racer, Big Bumpin, and Sneak King. Some screenshots here.

IBM's Exec on Business Potential of Virtual Worlds

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation, writes on his blog about virtual world's potential for business and communications. Quotes: "About two years ago, a study conducted by the IBM Academy of Technology concluded that technologies and capabilities from the gaming world would have a very strong impact on all aspects of IT, and made a number of recommendations for follow-on activities, which we have proceeded to implement." "Another exciting area of study is e-commerce in the virtual world. The original, and now very successful concept of e-commerce, is built around the metaphor of a catalogue, which fits the page content notion of the Web and of browsers very nicely. But in the emerging, highly visual virtual worlds, commerce could be conducted in virtual stores, the allure of which would be limited only by the imagination of the virtual store designers." "I believe that using such virtual, highly visual capabilities to help us design, simulate, optimize, operate and manage business activities of all sorts is going to be one of the most important breakthroughs in the IT industry over the next decade." A few more details on the blog of Business Communicators of Second Life. Eightbar covers related IBM's projects. -- clickable culture, x-posted on AdLab

Leo Burnett, BBH Ready Second Life Offices

The big news of the week: two large ad agencies, Leo Burnett and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, have announced plans to open offices in Second Life (links to the announcements). Leo works with Millions of Us on an Ideas Hub that will become a collaborative space for the agency's creative people (AdAge). The creatives will apparently have to learn the new interface and port their works as textures into the world. You can visit the commemorative tree marking the initiative at Millions of Us 190,82,23. Leo Burnett Toronto's blog has the full text of the press release and a few comments. Csven at reBang also offers his thoughts: "Someone needs to tell these old agencies that the first rule of Web 2.0 (and Second Life) is: Don't go around bragging about how you figured it out and are now (finally) going to set up an "ideas hub". Leo Burnett's SL tree of forbidden fruit. Note the CNet office on the background. Regarding BBH, Guardian reports: "Bartle Bogle Hegarty has opened a virtual advertising agency. BBH's move, within online virtual reality world Second Life, comes as rival Leo Burnett unveiled plans to set up Leo Ideas Hub. BBH has worked with London-based virtual world design agency Rivers Run Red to create a virtual agency populated by avatars of BBH staff including global chairman John Hegarty." The island's future address is BBH 189, 74, 48. The location actually isn't working yet and is not displayed on the map (although it does come up in search) so you can't teleport there and see it for yourself. Here's how far I got: I'll keep an eye on the things and will post more screenies as things progress.

Harvard Business Review: Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?

"Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?", Paul Hemp, Harvard Business Review, October 2006 HBR's editor Paul Hemp does a follow-up piece to his "Avatar-Based Marketing". The argument is similar to the one I made in the thesis: in-game shopping experience combines the best of the two worlds - the wealth of information, the wide product range and the convenience of online commerce with the social aspects of brick-and-mortar stores that online retailers hasn't been able to replicate. Selected quotes: "As the experience becomes more realistic, there will be a return to the "social and recreational aspect of shopping," a crucial element of bricks-and-mortar retailing that was lost when retailers went online, says Bob Moore, a sociologist at the Palo Alto Research Center who studies virtual human interactions. One can envision a group of teenage girls arranging to meet at a virtual store to try on clothes, comment on each other’s choices, and ultimately choose something, real or virtual, to buy. (Though the sales receipts from virtual items are small, getting people to sport branded items in a virtual world has its own benefits.)" "But virtual shopping expeditions may be driven more by the urge to chat than the urge to buy. Virtual shopping "would give friends something to do as they socialize online instead of simply sitting and IM-ing each other," says Michael K. Wilson, head of the company that runs There." "Even eBay, with its jumble-sale character, might be transformed from a tool for finding a particular item to a world in which people could rummage together through piles of virtual stuff, the equivalent of an afternoon of real-world antiquing in the country with friends—an event that, even if no one is looking for anything in particular, inevitably results in someone’s purchasing something."

NY Times: Selling to Avatars

"Selling to Avatars," Rob Walker, New York Times, October 1, 2006 A very top-line "for dummies" guide to the world of SL. The most interesting about it is that it appears in NY Times. Nice quote, too: "It’s a labor-intensive form of escapism, but these user creations are exactly what make the place interesting." -- via PSFK

Opinion: OMMA Advergame Panelists Biased

IGA's Darren Herman blogs about the recent OMMA panel on advergaming, calling it a farce. Hard to disagree. While advergaming has clear advantages in certain situations for certain demographics, I don't see how you can make a sweeping argument in favor of advergaming over in-game advertising (or the other way around).