Unaware and Unprepared. Again.

I’ve been saying it since I first got into Second Life: In spite of the platform’s limitations and the difficult-to-control power handed over to griefers, Linden Lab’s virtual world is an excellent testbed for advertising in what will undoubtedly shape up to be a much more immersive future internet. I pointed out some of the problems in a comment over on Corante (Link) about a year ago:

…the real point of the entry is that as this kind of interface develops there will likely be new forms of irritants developing with it. I suspect there will be an entirely new kind of thrill motivating the people who would write these kinds of applications. In some ways we may see a kind of mash-up: the browser meets the first-person shooter. I’ve no doubt that there are capable coders who’ve not bothered to write a trojan (for whatever reason), who would be gleeful at an opportunity to create virtual entities that do nothing more than harass, insult, degrade, verbally abuse, flash their virtual privates, aso.

If you think that someone creating anti-corporate commercials is bad (example – reLink), just wait til you see what they do when things become more immersive. If someone doesn’t like a product (or worse, the company’s customer service set up to support it), there will be little to stop them from creating a virtual performance piece aimed squarely at that company’s customer base which communicates their displeasure in the most unforgetable way. Prepare to be offended.

It’s no surprise to me that Ilya Vedrashko, blogger for the excellent MIT Advertising Lab, came to the same conclusion (Link):

A few weeks back I gave a presentation at the MIT C3 Conference on advertising in Second Life. The main point was to urge marketers to experiment with advertising in Second Life because even if the SL’s 200K-strong player base might not be attractive enough in itself, the game should be used as a massively multiplayer sandbox for honing skills that very soon will become useful elsewhere.

He makes that comment just before posting a link to Business 2.0 and its article mostly hinting at the advertising possibilities in Google’s increasingly metaverse-looking Google Earth application. From the article “Google moves into virtual worlds” (Link):

Consumers could fly into the virtual New York, go shopping in a virtual Times Square, get past the velvet rope at a virtual Studio 54 and chat with an avatar dressed as Andy Warhol. They could plan their next trip to the real New York in meticulous detail, become a detective in a Gotham noir, browse an apartment for sale, or jump into a taxi and play a driving game.

The key word is “Consumers”. And the key question is: Will advertising firms be ready this time? Not from what I’ve been reading.