Jul 26, 2007

Second Life Needs One

One of my loyal readers, Jonathan Trenn, sent me a link to a fascinating article in the current issue of Wired about Second Life and what a complete bust it's turning out to be.

The entire article is well worth reading, but here's a brief excerpt to whet the appetite:

What's behind this stampede is not that hard to divine. "A terror has gripped corporate America," says Joseph Plummer, chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, an industry think tank. Plummer has been around Madison Avenue since the early '60s, when modern advertising techniques materialized. "The simple model they all grew up with" — the 30-second spot, delivered through the mass reach of television — "is no longer working. And there are two types of people out there: a small group that's experimenting thoughtfully, and a large group that's trying the next thing to come through the door." Second Life appeals to the latter — the ones who are afraid of missing out, who don't consider half a million dollars to be a lot of money, and who haven't figured out (or don't want to admit) that Second Life is less than the bold new frontier it appears to be.
There's even a cameo appearance by Joseph Jaffe, whose not-an-agency Crayon created Coke's Second Life "presence."


Tom Kaspersk said...

What's funny is right after I read the Wired story I saw this from Newsweek's international edition:

"Second Life is emerging as a powerful new medium for social interactions of all sorts, from romance to making money. It may be the Internet's next big thing."


I don't begrudge marketers for experimenting with new channels like Second Life and Twitter, but I'm amazed at how many have dumped considerable amounts of money into "the next big thing" without a clear strategy or compelling idea.

Matt Dickman said...

Toad -- I think it's important to put Second Life into perspective. It's really less than four years old as a technology and only a couple years in the "mainstream" and so far it really caters to the more tech savvy, younger audience (early adopters).

To the article's point, it is often empty, but if you consider the scope of the user base with the scope of the world, it's not hard to see how lots of people can be in the world and not see each other. Sometimes I drive all the way home from work and don't see another person, but I know people are there.

I think it needs a tempered look from marketers before diving in. For some it would be a total waste. If your audience is a 45+ female you don't need to be there right now. If you're looking to reach young, early adopters it's worth a look.

If you compare SL to the Internet in terms of progression we'd be in the equivalent of 1998 when people said the same thing about the Internet. I think the key is to do your homework, start very small and move from there.

Toad said...

@Tom: I agree, experimenting is good for marketers, but for too many of them being on Second Life became a status symbol, kind of an "I Get 2.0" badge, when clearly, to your point, they knew precious little about it.

@Matt: You're right that Second Life is a start, that 3D communities of some sort will become more common, no less. Still, Second Life as a marketing vehicle still suffers from the Dungeons & Dragons stigma, the flying penises mentioned in the article and the whole virtual sex thing.

It's an interesting experiment, but again, I'm just not sure it's a place the mainstream advertisers who've flocked there need to be.

CK said...

Per Matt's, "If you compare SL to the Internet in terms of progression we'd be in the equivalent of 1998 when people said the same thing about the Internet. I think the key is to do your homework, start very small and move from there."

Matt, help me out here. I look at SL like I do blogging--which has taken-off because, yes, there's community (well, lots of communities/nodes). So while I'm trying to give SL a break (and trying for the life of me to divine the perfect outfit for my avatar), I just don't 'see it'.

Insofar as Tom being amazed at the amount of money marketers have dumped into these next big things? Believe it's largely due to their not knowing the terrain so they look to their agencies, or non-agencies, and, well, they get a big bill.

Dave N said...

There's no doubt that marketers steamed in ill advisedly and without a plan for success ... a kind of "Brand Baghdad" if you will ... ouch terrible analogy, sorry. Actually Tom said it beter above now I read it: many brands went ahead "without a clear strategy or compelling idea".
Jaffe undoubtedly botched his not-an-agency's entry in to both SL (his way of expressing it pissed everyone in there off) and Real Life too (his pomposity and rhetoric made him look ridiculous).
We all have to admit huge mistakes have been made introducing brands to SL and that while it *can* be an interesting addition to a client's marketing mix, for the time being it will probably be a small one.