Friday, October 20, 2006

A licence to print money?

copyright Marketing Week
by Catherine Turner
published October 18, 2006

Second Life is gaining a life of its own. The virtual reality website allows users to create an online existence for their alter ego and brands are already beginning to exploit this new "market". Adidas, Reebok and Toyota have set up shop, BBC Radio 1 and Sony BMG are organising concerts, and Vodafone has recently moved in.

The mobile phone giant joins advertising agencies Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) and Leo Burnett, and media outlet Reuters - which will "report" from the virtual world - in cyberspace. But with an audience of less than 1 million "avatars", or residents, are brands simply piggybacking the latest fad rather than adding long-term value?

Not at all, says Justin Bovington, founder of Rivers Run Red, a design company specialising in the development of virtual world marketing and design. Bovington believes the three-year-old site - created by Linden Labs - is not a fad. He says Second Life membership is edging towards a "tipping point", with brands seeing it as another platform in an increasingly fragmented media mix. A year ago, there were just 80,000 members, but the figure may reach 6 million, he says. "Clients are asking agencies what their Second Life strategy is," he adds.



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