Next up with virtual world advertising dollars: Red Bull, which is partnering with Sony (SNE) to put a tropical island and aeroplane racing game on the PS3 virtual world “Home.” Red Bull hosts real-life air shows too, so the concept isn’t out of the blue.
Despite a spotty track record for virtual world advertising, Red Bull is on to a good idea. The problem marketers ran into in Second Life was they’d spend big bucks on a virtual storefront, and when people showed up there would be nothing to do.
You can’t build fun things for avatars in Second Life because the user interface is so primitive that even walking is difficult. Both Pontiac and Acura tried giving away Second Life cars based on real-life models, but the virtual cars steered worse than early-80s arcade games like “Pole Position” and people junked them after five minutes.
For most corporations, Second Life meant deserted “virtual stores” that became an embarrassment for the companies involved. The handful of successful real world presences in Second Life — both the CW’s “Gossip Girl” region and a recreation of the set from Showtime’s “The L Word” come to mind — only took off after companies made long-term committments to tedious and expensive event planning run by human staff.
But unlike Second Life (or Google’s Lively), the PS3 is purpose-built for gaming. If Red Bull can deliver a fun and free air racing game, the company can step back and reap the benefits of positive branding with no further effort.
And there’s an added bonus: Red Bull can be fairly confident no one will storm their PS3 island with a barrage of flying penises.
Photo: San Diego Shooter