As I walk through the virtual, user created, world of Second Life I notice a convergence, old forms of media advertising are melded into the atmosphere and have taken on a new twist. Why are well established, highly regarded companies eager to have their name attached to this newly minted social medium? In several ways, Second Life’s advertising is adapted from more traditional forms of advertising, it is changing the way users relate to one another.
Billboard advertising is big in Second Life, but some sponsors go beyond typical displays by providing free activities for avatars to engage in. The companies develop rides, games and buildings to explore which help them promote who they are and what they do. Base jumping is one adventure that a company called Booville Skydiving maintains. An avatar can climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower designed in a world modeled after 19th century Paris. Booville supplies users with a free parachute and instructions on how to use it, but also allows you to buy other, more dynamic skydiving experiences. Avatars seem to flock to the site, I witnessed four of them take the plunge as I was up trying to figure it out for myself. Although I am only a novice when it comes to Second Life, this lucrative advertising opportunity left an impression on me.
Until recently, consumers had to imagine themselves with products for sale in a traditional two-dimensional way, Second Life is able to put the products in their virtual hands. An avatar can choose to wear any kinds of clothes he can afford, in the same way he can change his height or the shape of his goatee. In this capacity Second Life shapes the image of a product’s brand in the mind of the viewer or the wearer. Because you are embodied in your avatar, and have learned to make it move as you move, you begin to assume that the products you’re using are your own, they alter the way people look at you and the way you see yourself.
Corporations, both for and non-profit, can purchase and build a geographical presence on Second Life just to get their name in the mix. The geography in this realm is similar to the idea of a shopping center, where consumers flock to an anchor store and, as a residual effect, afterwards, go to a nearby store because they are in the area. I found this proximity factor to be the most common way to have new experiences. Walking through Second Life forces a user to naturally look towards what’s coming up next.
In many ways, radio stations on Second Life mimic those in real life. When an avatar teleports to his or her destination, venue authors and architects can have a selection of music or a radio station featured on the Second Life soundtrack. Radio here sounds and behaves much like radio in real life, but in the virtual world users who are connected by the same music, and the same commercials share a bond. Users can listen to a song and tell others to listen in, or stations may direct users to an area of Second Life where a promotion is being held. Those who worry that radio is destined to extinction take heed.
The advertising in Second Life is directly derived from what we know as advertising in the real world, this allows users to easily adapt and respond to what they already know. This familiar relationship to reality offers new users a comfort level to the strange new world they experience, and reinforces their power to create something meaningful within it.