Virtual Worlds not just Second Life

I attended the Virtual Worlds 2007 Conference in NY and was first struck with the amount of euphoria in the air. Standing room only, sold out event. No, it wasn’t filled with a bunch of 3d artists and science fiction geeks. It wasn’t filled with reclusive hermits with no lives. It was wall to wall business people from fortune 500 to 100. There were major publishers of interactive and broadcast media. There was foreign media coverage. And there was a predominant amount of agencies present that were not going to make the same mistake they made when they didn’t integrate on the web in time.

The excitement and euphoria was real. You could slice it with a knife. Keynote speakers ranged from Matt Bostwick, SVP Franchise Development Group, MTV to Tor Myhren, Executive Creative Director, Leo Burnett. It also had a nice balance of those “realists” as they can often be labeled who can’t see past the ROI in order to get from here to there.

Those skeptics were here to find out what all the fuss was about and to naturally try to bring some sense to this euphoria. They brought up all the cynical questions that we hear out there, (ironically from those that haven’t even created an avatar) and was humbled to hear and see for themselves actual case studies that will soon be archived and benchmarked as some of the basic platforms on which virtual world marketing will continue to prosper.

This is about virtual worlds. It is not about Second Life. Although SL is getting the predominant press and usage, there are numerous platforms available for virtual worlds to exist. Platforms such as There.com, Multiverse, Entropia Universe. SL happens to have an easier cross platform for both PC and Mac, plus the features are more flexible than others.

Virtual worlds is an extension of all media. It is not an end all be all and must be integrated with all your media. It is a natural extension of the web, but does have it’s own business models.
1. Brand awareness
2. Subscription based
3. Product/service sales
4. Advertising/marketing
But the key value points that virtual world’s offer apply to all business models. Those ingredients are:
• Colaboration. Allow your audience to truly be a part of your brand.
• Entertainment ecosystem. People use virtual worlds for engagement on a different level.
• Cultural connector. Enable all cultures around the world to connect to each other.

We are all in an R&D phase right now. Not necessarily ROI. The reason is this. As early adopters, ROI is defined differently. You cannot immediately hold all current ROI benchmarks onto a new medium. It is not only unrealistic, but short sighted. ROI in this medium would naturally be defined based upon your business however more general in terms of stickyness, PR, brand perception. Ironically, recruitment has the most tangible means to benchmark; number of leads, resumes and hires as well as brand perception.
Watch out for how Universities will be able to harness virtual worlds into actual virtual campuses that enable theory and practice to live.

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TMP Worldwide
Written by TMP Worldwide

4 Comments

  1. tom delorme

    “agencies present that were not going to make the same mistake they made when they didnt integrate on the web in time.”

    funny how i feel like rediscovering the web:High price tags, no real benchmark, few available competencies, almost no established KPI …

  2. ericb

    A few disjointed thoughts

    I think the term/concept of Virtual Reality needs to be redefined the term has little in common with its 1980s origin. The term “Virtual Reality” conjures up visuals of max headroom and William Gibson novels. At the very core, virtual worlds are nothing more than wired communities or experiences. A Virtual experience is a skin or an exceptional detail that applies context and personality to a community that may or may not exist.

    Also important to note, not all virtual environments need to be rendered in 3d. In fact, aside from the video game age demographic, I think a lot of users might have an entirely different idea of what constitutes reality.

    So what are some virtual realities that couple both virtual components and real components? I think mobility is driving and shaping the next wired/unplugged reality. Twitter would be a great example of a wired community that happens both online and offline.

  3. Russell
    Russell

    Excellent thoughts. Yes I agree that some may think that virtual worlds may include the myspaces of the world now, however when one is faced within a 2d platform, it doesn’t embrace the ambiences of walking through spacial planes and interacting with them as 3d virtual offers. Also, when you are on a 2d website, you are alone. You may have a person that you are chatting with via IM, but you are still experiencing solo in real time as oppose to a virtual 3d environment. These are intangibles that can only be experienced for oneself rather than explained.

  4. Andrew Marritt

    Whilst there are many opportunities for businesses to market using Virtual Worlds, at the moment I don’t see recruitment being one of them. (See http://resourcingstrategies.com/2007/04/05/209/ for a detailed explanation of this).

    Furthermore, it is perfectly possible to build an ROI for new initiatives and is necessary in all R&D type activities. You do need to include a full range of costs, including a opportunity cost for resources who need to be ‘present’. In the end, at this moment, it is very difficult to prioritise presence in a virtual world over physical presence, especially as the latter is more powerful in terms of relationship building etc – the virtual world is in many ways a proxy for the physical one and only a partially effective alternative.

    We always need to consider new activities along the recruitment value chain and to interact with the right candidates along their recruitment decision processes. From my analysis, from a recruitment perspective, virtual worlds should be prioritised behind other initiatives. Other emerging mediums have much stronger reasons for participation.

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