The next panel opens at the Virtual World Forums Europe conference, with the moderator Wagner James Au, from New World Notes starting proceedings.
He beings by talking about Second Life, and how Armani opened an online shop within the online game, so users could deck their avatars out in actual Armani clothing. He mentions how the clothing didn’t look right on the pixellated characters, and a simple clothing boutique two users within the game created, is much more popular amongst users than the luxury fashion brand.
Betsy Book from There.com takes to the stage, who talks a bit about her community, and how they work closely with several advertisers to ensure users aren’t bombarded too much with the adverts, but they’re tailored specifically for each gamer. She shows us a video of There.com, which allows for users to access goods from interactive kiosks.
They worked with a company to stage a concert within the game, where the Beastie Boys performed for the gamers, similar to that of Second Life’s festival they staged in Summer.
Justin Bovington, CEO of Rivers Run Red (one of the larger sponsors for this conference), jumps on stage and mentions how rapidly the industry is moving, and how we’re experiencing a ‘second wave’ of the online worlds, with brands and advertises harnessing the power of these online worlds, to reach new consumers.
The next speaker within this panel is Ed Bartlett, VP from IGA Worldwide, who runs through advertising within these virtual worlds. He mentions that magazines, TV networks etc can use IGA to buy their way within these worlds, and amalgamating the games so they target all forums for the brands that hire them to do so.
They create image awareness for their advertisers, however don’t like the gaudy banner ads etc seen sometimes in games – they tailor each advertiser for each specific game, with EA, Subway, Adidas and Vodafone having hired them, amongst others.
Billboards within the games are often a clever way of putting adverts within games, Bartlett continues, as it’s subliminal enough, yet still easy to distinguish that it’s in-game advertising.
Mark Boyd, Creative Director for BBH, whose company’s clients have included Lynx, Vodafone and other high-profile companies, has also embraced online gaming as a forum for advertising. “Virtual worlds is an area we’re really interested in”, Boyd claims, and states that brands and agencies are constantly thinking about new ways of targeting consumers, and shops in Second Life etc, are a great way of going about it.
Betsy Book, from There.com, mentions how stringent they are about age-appropriate items appearing in their game. She said if someone were to try and trade a “strap-on dildo”, for example, they would be on it in a flash, as due to their young demographic, it’s not appropriate at all.
The reason Second Life is so big, claims one member of the panel who’s head is obscured by several rows of people in front of me, is due to brands such as Armani promoting their association with the game, so people learn about the game through the advertisers, rather than through the actual game itself.
Sony’s Home is brought up by one of the panel members, and the fact that it’s an open platform with in-built VoIP and in-built payment processings etc, so is the perfect example of an advertiser-friendly forum.
One of the top ten fashion designers that have sprung up through Second Life, has now started to sell her designers in the real world, with the clothes being manufactured in China, due to the high demand of her clothes within the game. So now users can not only deck their characters within Second Life out in her fashions, but they themselves can wear them too.
Betsy Book is asked by a member of the audience whether she thinks brands will start to create their own virtual worlds. She said it’s already been done on a small scale, but there’s definitely room for larger brands to do so, however there’s very few brands within the world who could sustain it, and keep users interested. I personally think users would see right through the marketing spin, and prefer to stay with already well-established worlds
Data can be given to advertisers about the game’s users, says Book, who can track and provide all the relevant information to advertisers about the user, and how many times they looked at the specific advertising within the game, and how they engaged with it. Presumably when she says they can provide “all sorts of data to advertisers”, credit card details aren’t one of them!