Thursday, September 07, 2006

Business Musings: Advertising?

With the annoncement SLforums going the way of the dinosaurs, the host of private blogs, forums and sites cropping up for product information and discussion, and the general dubious nature of searching classifieds listings and places in game, I've been pondering. The question I've been pondering is in regards to advertising. I know the classifieds section is staying open, which is awesome, but still, what about the people who don't read the forums?

I work in an marketing department IRL. I'm a graphics monkey doing ads, posters, fliers, brochures, bus ads, airport ads, etc, etc ad nausium. ( side note: Very cool blog post on making ads for SL or for anything really.)I know how advertising works in the real world, but I've always been a little mystified by it in SL. Where is the best place to get my info as a consumer, or worse yet how do I get eyeballs to see my new products?

In the past I've seen ads in SL. Normally I cruise about on the mainland or a few private islands. I've seen big floating billboards on other wise empty expanses. I've seen 'advertising networks' that claim to get your name out there. Again, roadside billboards on those infamously overpriced 16 sq/m of land of a roadside somewhere. Occasionally I saw a billboard in a mall. This was actually the way I stumbled onto Pixeldolls when I was a noob. The billboard gave me a freebee ( pants and a top I think..) as well as a landmark. One of the better advertising I've seen done. Why? Because I actually WENT there and I've been a customer of PixelDolls ever since. Thus, that ad worked, and its placement worked. Another thing I've heard more about and seems semi popular (rather than seen, I'm not a club goer so much.) is sponsorship type advertising. Donations of money or products for events at clubs, with of course the DJ and hosts plugging the store, sometimes a big graphic in the background, although its not particularly frequent it seems.

When dwell was removed, the situation for traffic vs money has been pretty dire for things like clubs since they don't make a lot generally and typically have a higher overhead for staff, prizes, and so forth. Many of the perks of having items such as camping chairs, money trees, prize chairs, dance pads were lost with dwell. Some people will laud this as a good thing. I can sort of agree in terms of abuse of those items, but in a world where noobs don't get a stipidend anymore and jobs in SL are sparce as hen's teeth, not everyone is able to build something worth selling nore are they interested in doing so. These items provide value to newbies, as well as older residents who then use that money in turn to support merchants, casinos, and other activities. Its a great circle of life. Mostly. But what happens when the free money stops? With no Dwell a lot of places that relied on it have vanished in a virtual poof of smoke.

So this is the situation, and I've been pondering and pondering. And then a digital apple hit me on the head.

I've been pondering some more attraction type stuff at my own mall to get more butts in seats as it were, and I found a moneytree that works off donation amounts rather than suffering having your wallet permadrained. It's the Wolfhaven MoneyTree if you are curious.
I put it in a fairly obscure location, which does force people to walk through the stores a bit to find it ( i have a teleport point set which is purposefully away from it). I also put out some freebees & cheapies with a landmark so that hopefully the people picking from the tree would also take a freebee or cheapie with the landmark so they would sample my stuff and get the landmark, hopefully coming back later or bringing friends. Of course, this didn't quite work as I had thought, most people ignore the samples and go strait for the cash. I'm quite sure I'm going to have to plug the meter already as it were, which also poses a dilemma in terms of getting donations into the tree. What value, aside from philanthropy, of helping out newbies does the tree provide. Well, the obvious answer is traffic. Eyeballs. Then it dawned on me. Eyeballs have value! Some of the best value in the world, as a matter of fact.

Even if the person picking from the tree is only there for 5 minutes trying to figure out how the thing works, or maybe less if they know what to do, they are going to stare at it for at least 30 seconds. Thats 30 seconds to give them a message about your business, product, or service. Most people camera around the tree to see if there is more money hiding somewhere, or to be able to click the money in it. Thats 360 degrees of advertising space! There is also the process of getting to the tree which could also support advertising. If people paid for the advertising, it would easily pay for the tree. Newbies get money, business get eyeballs. Its win win. Value for both.

This got me thinking about other similar situations. Camping chairs/mats/dance pads, etc. You've got people coming in, why isn't there a big fat ad in the middle of the huddle? properly priced it would pay for what comes out of the chairs and the advertiser gets a captive audience. Even AFK a lot of camping locations have people popping in because of traffic numbers. Those are potential eyeballs to capture.

I'm kind of surprised there isn't MORE sponsorship for clubs and the like, seeing as if the club did it right it would probably be very lucrative. Although i'm sure most clubs don't have an advertising/marketting manager on their staff for anything aside from their own needs, they don't go out and actively solicit stores for advertising inside the club.

But the bottom line is, why be an advertising 'agency' or network in SL with just big signs in the middle of nowhere with no quantifyable traffic save perhaps flybys when you can have guarunteed eyeballs on a daily basis if you plunk your ad on a moneytree or in front of some chairs. And with all the clubs, casinos and other venue's screaming for money, why didn't they think of it? And why pay money for advertising unless you are getting guarunteed eyes for your L$?

My little moneytree is going to serve as my personal advertising experiment, of which I'll post the results. If you own a business, and want to be a part of it, let me know. Otherwise I'm going to present the offer to people I know in game and see what they think.


At 2:20 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Shep Korvin said...

I've thought similar things about the advertising opportunities of camping chairs - in fact, once you have somebody sat on a chair, you have script control of their camera angle; you could potentially pan their camera off to a full-screen view of an advertising sign for the duration of their stay in the chair... it's only, really, the fact that I don't want to be associated with encouraging the zombie-camping phenomenon that's prevented me from making them ;)

I'm not entirely sure that renting ad space in clubs etc is really a viable earner for the club owner. After all, if I can rent a fully interactive 20 prim vendor spot in the same club for L$100, what kind of price would I pay for a mere "poster" ad in that same venue? Not much. In a sense, vendor spots *are* the in-club adverts of the SL world. Maybe "poster space" is something they could throw in as an added perk, to people who they already have business relationships with.

The thing is, I'm not convinced that direct SL translations of meatspace advertising techniques are really the best way to go. Things like advertising hoardings were developed to solve an advertisers dilemma in first life. In second life, we have a realm of existance where anybody can be instantly teleported to a given location. Where objects can be magically placed in a person's inventory. A world where items can be duplicated, instantly, an unlimited amount of times at no material cost to the producer. Aspects like this should totally change the advertisers palette - and as such, folks who limit themselves to duplicating meatspace advertising paradigms in SL do themselves no favours.

My own best attempt on the SL advertising front is the lucky chair (not sure, but these might be what you're referring to by "prize chairs"). At heart, they're basically a friend referral scheme, but re-imagined for a world where it takes absolutely no effort at all to "magic" your friends into the same store as you right this second. The chairs are extremely viral in their appeal (just evesdrop on one of the larger lucky chair groups in-world if you have any doubts!). Put one into a store, announce its existance in some of the "lucky chair" groups, and you'll have a steady stream of eyeballs wandering into your venue in no time at all :)

(P.S. you might get a few more comments on the blog if you open up the reply options a little... I had to sign up for a blogger account in my SL name just to write this without exposing my rl identity!)

At 3:26 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Myst Panther said...

Good points Shep, definately to bear thinking on.

I share a similar opinion with you regarding camping chairs, however, I don't think they are going to go away. Even if there is zombies in the chairs, people tend to still keep arriving and looking for chairs, thats where the eyeball factor comes in. People are still going to these places.

Sponsorship in clubs is not strictly about having an ad on the wall. This is actually a bad way to go about In that sort of enviroment I think. Adspace on the wall should be a bonus, but not the be all and end all of a sponsorship package. Ads should be in addition to vendors and should not interfear with them. The beauty of ads over vendors is that ads can be a single prim over the stage, whereas a vendor space requires prim limits, policing, access, etc. But ideally club sponsorship would include several things. Adspace in a good location, mention and landmarks in all prizes given away, repeated mention and plugging from the club DJs and hosts, possibly mention as a sponsor in all event listtings for that club over a period of time, etc. Its a lot more than just an ad. Usually the exact nature of what you get as a sponsor is determined by what sponsorship level you subscribe to as an advertiser. That would be up to the clubs to decide what they would be willing to offer a sponsor, and the advertisers as to what they would be willing to offer in value, be it product, money, prizes, etc. Usually sponsorships come in gold, silver and Platinum packages and normally there is a limited number of sponsors if there is a limited amount of exposure the organization looking for sponsorship can provide. Sponsorship has a huge range of possiblity. But it requires organization to a point where most people aren't willing to go on a casual basis.

Direct translations of advertising models don't work in SL. However, the basic principles of marketting and problemsolving can still be applied. The problem of course being " How do I get people aware of my stuff?" and " Where do I find people to make aware of my stuff." Since, as you mentioned people can just teleport around to where they want to be, the trick is KNOWING where they are going to be and use that. Some facetts of human nature doesn't change. People will come running for free money and prizes. People will be there. They will listen to a radio station for a chance to win something. They will watch a screen, they will play a game, they will buy clothing, they will do stupid human tricks for a chance to get something for nothing. While they are waiting to win, this is when the message that we want them to hear is delivered, repeatedly to them in the place they are at. Another thing that doesn't work is general advertising. Targetted marketting is far FAR more effective in secondlife, also, you have to keep it pretty low key or sophisticated because of a sensitivity to spamming.

What I was seeing is the idea of traditional advertising. The billboards on the road type stuff. Doesn't work. But target marketing at a known audience? That might work.

Yes, the lucky chair is what I was refering to as prize chair. Its is a good idea. I like it a lot better than a lot of other things. I also have a fondness for raffle balls over say money balls, because it gets your product out there and since that 1) costs you nothing 2) gets your name/products out there 3) creates a social cometition, its quite a nifty thing. I salute you for its creation and may aquire one myself. :)

I had an odd thought about camping chairs. I wonder if people would still use them if they concented to be a direct marketing group while they were on the chairs. *hmms about that* I mean, they are a captive audience anyway. If they got items thrown at them while they were on the chairs, chances are they would probably look at them if they weren't too many at a time and cycled fairly frequently. *ponders that thought *

I'll look into the comment thing. I'm not too good with blogger yet.

At 10:51 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger CronoCloud said...

Interesting comments. I've actually been thinking of starting a marketing consultancy business (fashion industry oriented) just using the ideas I have as a consumer myself.

There's just so much stuff that could be done Even if one can't apply all RL marketing techniques it should be possible to modify them for SL use.

At 8:34 AM, June 06, 2008, Blogger Traven said...

Well THANKS for the blurb about the Wolfhaven Money Tree. Version 4 is OUT by the way for anyone interested... (plug plug) LOL. Seriously though - I like some of the ideas I've seen here - and I'd like to discuss a concept with you. Contact me in world sometime and we'll chat it up.

~Traven Sachs
Wolfhaven Productions


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