SXSW Interactive

Panel: Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds

Tony Walsh
Eric Gruber  MTV Networks
Paul Hemp   Sr Editor,   Harvard Business Review
Linda Zimmer   Pres/CEO,   MarCom:Interactive
Lauren Wheeler   Project Mgr,   Three Rings Design

After a demo of virtual worlds created by the panelists, including a “Virtual Hills” of LA and Virtual Leguna Beach by MTV, and Puzzle Pirates, i.e. pirates as lego characters, the panelists talked about how real-world marketing principles work in their newly created virtual worlds.

Answer, resoundingly: they don’t. Zimmer said virtual world marketing is the epitome of understanding real one-to-one relationships — advertising in regular world does not work in a virtual world.  Hemp, who hasn’t created a world but spends a lot of time studying avatars and the people behind them, says it’s important to note what an avatar says something about a consumer, eg who they really want to be.  Once that is understood, opporuntities for engagement with a brand are tremendous.

Wheeler, whose group is behind Puzzle Pirates AKA pirates as lego characters, tried a subscription model on their 2.7m users — but only profits soared when they switched to micropayments, and began to cultivate an active community of offline businesses and let them experiment at marketing however they desire.  PP operates on a ‘many points of entry’ model similar to MySpace, or to let residents make the world around them as interesting or as ugly as they want it to be.

My main takeaway was to not forget to look at the identity of an avatar/user offline vs. online, because that will provide you with an understanding of attention currency (feeding off a user’s desire to pay attention) can lead to microcurrency, or small financial donations related to time spent in that world.


2 thoughts on “Panel: Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds

  1. We’ll be looking at this and more in some detail at the Virtual Worlds Conference, taking place March 28-29, 2007 in NYC. VW 2007 is the leading event for Fortune 500 companies seeking to understand and maximize marketing, entertainment and business strategies within virtual worlds. VW 2007 web site is

    Hope to see you there.


  2. Pingback: Science report - SXSWi 2007 edition « The Journal of Rockett Science

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