I don't like the slagging of Second Life and Virtual Worlds. I know the concept of Virtual Worlds (and why anybody would take part in them) might seem a little "out there" for the common Marketer, but we need to keep our antennas up on this. I've stated it before and I'll state it again: once the technology gets better, what we're presently seeing in Virtual Worlds - like Second Life - will be the way we engage online. For sure, it will be different, but the idea of a three-dimensional feel within the two dimensional reality of a screen is coming.
We have to start accepting it. Others have.
This week alone, we caught wind that CBS will be doing some integration with Second Life for a component of CSI - New York. In fact, the creator of CSI, Anthony Zuiker, spoke at the Virtual World Convention that is taking place in Las Vegas this week. Here's what he said in the ClickZ Blog posting, CSI Goes Virtual To Track A Killer:
"Some product are not happening in Second Life cause there's no interaction... The key to do this is to feature things on air, and then in a gaming mechanism in the world so the product is in use. Not just background that no one is going to pay attention to."
So yes, Virtual Worlds is a Marketing play - and a new channel for us to be considering.
And, if you're still on the fence about Virtual Worlds, your competition is not. Omnicom also announced it has made an investment in Millions of Us - the San Francisco-based creative shop that is best known for its efforts in creating Second Life marketing events and environments. Check out this snippet from the AdWeek article, Omnicom Takes Stake In Second Life Shop:
"'The experience is only to get better,' said Jonathan Nelson, chairman of Organic and Omnicom digital strategist. 'We're still in the first generation of virtual worlds. It is another interface to have a social media experience. Some people will look at the world through their avatars.'... The investment is a rare case of Omnicom making a bet on an emerging media company. Rivals like WPP Group have made several investments in emerging media. Interpublic Group took stakes in Facebook and local TV digital ad platform Spot Runner."
In addition to this, CosmoGirl announced that they are partnering with There.com (a Virtual World with more of a teen/twenty-something crowd) to launch CosmoGirl Village - a branded virtual world for people to check out fashion, dance and shopping related events.
What does this all add up to?
How about this: one billion dollars of investment in Virtual Worlds over the last twelve months.
That was the news from Virtual Worlds Management. And while seventy percent of that comes from Walt Disney's seven hundred million dollar acquisition of Club Penguin, we're just beginning to see the opportunities and Marketing potential as more and more people engage in Virtual Worlds.
In fact, I think the following quote from the MarketingVox article, $1 Billion Invested In 35 Virtual-World Companies In Past 12 Months, sums it up best:
"'The amount of money invested in this period of time is staggering… [and] we don't see any slowing in the market adoption of virtual worlds technologies and expect investment in the space to continue,' said Christopher Sherman, executive director of Virtual Worlds Management. 'In fact the market is growing significantly, with the rate of adoption of virtual worlds increasing as the technology matures and has more to offer both consumers and enterprise customers.'"
Don't be too shocked. People have common needs being served in Virtual Worlds. They are sharing, socializing and connecting in ways they never could before... in ways not even Facebook can replicate.