Rebecca Lieb of ClickZ has strong advice for any advertiser drinking the Kool-Aid about advertising in virtual worlds like Second Life: Sober up. Mostly what such campaigns generate, she says, is real-world PR ink–gobs of it. And although PR ink may be perfectly justifiable advertising goal, even this benefit will likely soon disappear, when the novelty wears off.
Second Life, Lieb says, is littered with abandoned corporate real estate. Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” island houses neither visitors nor staff. Dell Island is deserted. The schedule of events on Sun Microsystems’ site has no events. The American Apparel store is closed. Even the real estate that once supported the rare success story, such as Starwoods’ Aloft hotel is now gone, donated to a non-profit.
The problem, Lieb says, is not that Second Lifers don’t have money–they do (Linden dollars). It’s just that they don’t want to spend them on anything brand-name advertisers want to sell. What do Second Lifers want to buy? Sex. The vitual sex trade is roaring in Second Life–a particularly popular business just sold for $50,000 real dollars. According to Lieb’s colleague Ian Schafer, “One of the most frequently purchased items in Second Life is genitalia.”
Of course, the goal of advertising in a virtual world is to build brands and sell products in the real world. Given that a big driver of brand affinity is perceived popularity, however, it’s unlikely that Second Lifers who happen to fly over Dell’s abandoned island are suddenly seized by the need to buy a new PC. Rebecca Lieb, ClickZ