I logged into Second Life again to check out some advertising opportunities last night. Some pretty cool potential. Adidas has a store that you can visit and check out their shoes. You can buy a virtual pair (I think they cost the equivalent of 50 cents in real money) and there are links to a store finder web page that launch a browser. The potential there to connect virtual brand experirences to real life commerce opportunites is pretty limitless.
I was particularly jealous of ad agency BBH (Bartles, Bogle & Hegarty). They've created a virtual agency with little meeting spaces and their portfolio hanging on the wall. Why use online conferencing software like WebEx? You can have your avators meet at the virtual agency. I'll put it on my Amazon Wish List for Traction.
Also, in the interest of trend-spotting, there's a new term that is going to be part of the internet lexicon in a few years. A "Yard Sale" is a collection of virtual junk, primarily digital sex toys to use in cyber-sex games, that are strewn about somebody's "yard" that you can browse and buy. I kid you not. One of the filters to help you find places in Second Life where there are others to interact with is by viewing a list of Events. About half of these Events are Yard Sales. Maybe two-thirds. Watch for "Yard Sale" on a buzzword list near you (I predict Wired will get this one in about 6 months).
So, Second Life is cool. There's lots of opportunities for both marketers and pornographers. Web 2.0, eat your heart out.
But, I've seen the future.
Last week's Newsweek has an article on Microsofts new 3D version of Google Earth. Assuming your on Windows (which I'm not), you can use your xBox joystick to zoom through real 3D versions of cities. Every building in San Francisco is rendered and even has textures placed on them. Banners ads and live traffic alerts hover in the air. Microsoft has fleets of trucks on the street right now taking millions of high res photos of every major city in the US to add more and more detail to this. Clearly, Microsoft will be a latecomer to the community/gaming aspect of this, but how difficult is it to see the writing on the wall here. Once they've got a 3D map of the real world, they can add avatars just like in Second Life. You will be able to visit Barcelona, scope out the neighborhood around your hotel, check out restaurants, meet real people, whatever. All with locally relevant banner ads and interactive brand experiences dynamically served up to woo you.
Fifiteen years ago, most of us didn't even have a computer. My god. What are we in for?