Linden Lab comments on new advertising moves

LL logoAdvertising on SL has been something of a minor theme on this blog of late. Most recently, I returned to the idea of LL using machinima collaboratively with users (via a competition) to help promote Second Life to the world at large. Prior to that, and paralleling Ciaran Laval, I’ve touched on the topic of the SL websites being perhaps a means for the Lab to leverage revenue through advertising as a means of helping to offset falling tier revenue  – something which the Lab actually embarked upon recently.

The move has been met with mixed feedback from users, with many objections being raised (unsurprisingly) and some mistakenly believing they were somehow “milking” their own userbase – as if the revenue generated from the ads was coming directly out of their own pockets. Some of this negative feedback may have been driven by the initial ads displayed on things like people’s dashboards to start with, although it is evident now that LL are seeking to more robustly curate the nature of the ads with show up – not always successfully, but the improvements are there to be seen.

Advertising on the SL dashboard has raised mixed responses
Advertising on the SL dashboard has raised mixed responses

Some of the backlash against the new move appears to be on the grounds that advertising somehow devalues the SL brand. However, as Gywneth Llewelyn points out, the SL web properties potentially offer a rich vein of revenue flow which could significantly assist LL (with a potential beyond anything I admit to imagining).

Obviously, given my own stance on the matter, I’m supportive of the move – and have actually suggested it should be broadened to incorporate other SL web properties such as both our profile feeds (which already advertise SL in a case of “preaching to the converted”) and  the Marketplace. The latter is something some have drawn the line at, alongside the use of people’s SL dashboard. Although objections to the use of former have been given with caveats, the idea of excluding either would appear to be counter-productive to the aim of helping to generate revenue for LL – simply because of the amount of traffic they generate.

Possibly in response to the wider negative reaction to the move, and in confirmation that LL very clearly see their web properties as a valuable source of revenue generation, the Lab has issued a Featured News blog post on the matter, covering both the current advertising and the moves to expand it, confirming that as of the 12th March, advertising will encompass the SL marketplace. The post reads in full:

As you may have noticed, we recently added some banner ads to Today, we’ve also added them to the Marketplace, and we’ll soon expand the program to other Second Life web properties as well. The placement of these ads is designed to be unobtrusive, as we don’t want them to interfere with your Second Life experience on the web, and we’re taking care to keep the content appropriate.

These ads are a great opportunity for advertisers to reach the large, global audience that visits the Second Life web properties every day, and we want to extend that opportunity to Second Life merchants as soon as we can. For Merchants, advertising on the Second Life web properties will be a new way to get their offerings in front of potential customers, while at the same time making the ads extremely relevant to every Second Life user who sees them.

We have some work to do before we can make the ads purchasable by Second Life business owners, and it’s too soon to say precisely when we’ll be able to, but we wanted to let you all in on this plan early on. We’ll blog again when we have more info to share, so keep an eye on this space!

Ads now on the SL Marketplace - although initial offering suggest some refinement of the filters might be in order
Ads now on the SL Marketplace – although initial offerings suggest some refinement of the filters might be in order

That the ad spaces will be expanded to include user-run business should amount to good news, and help mitigate objections relating to ads appearing on the various SL web properties. Allowing SL businesses to use the capability (assuming they are in a position to do so) brings both added relevance to the ads and helps SL businesses promotion themselves to SL consumers across an even broader front.

Obviously, with regards to the Marketplace in particular, some careful consideration needs to be given to how advertising for SL business will sit alongside existing aspects of Marketplace promotion, such as listing enhancements. If merchants using the latter feel that the advertising option is undermining the listing enhancement options, then it is likely that there could be a wider withdrawal from the latter than has been experienced in the past when the scheme has hit problems.

Some have called for those with Premium accounts to escape the advertising. There’s actually some merit in this – other websites offer “advertising opt-outs” on payment of a fee, so given that Premium members have already paid out, then automatically opting them out from any advertising campaign of this nature is liable to go down very well (and potentially make Premium accounts a little more attractive than offering-up cars, boats, planes and other trinkets). Certainly, I wouldn’t be against seeing the ads vanish from my views of the various SL website – although I don’t actually see them as actually impinging on my SL experience as it is.

Whether such an “opt out” could actually be easily achieved, however, is perhaps a matter of debate. As we’ve seen in matters of logging-in etc., the various SL web properties are perhaps not as well-integrated as they first appear, making any attempts to “ring-fence” Premium accounts from the advertising, even were LL so minded (which I actually doubt) potentially harder than may first appear.

Given the initial reaction to the advertising move, it’ll be interesting to see what the response to the news that the programme is being expanding is liable to be.

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22 thoughts on “Linden Lab comments on new advertising moves

  1. Advertising is maby not bad. But like many times with Linden Lab, the way the implement it on the webpage is most terrible ugly. and not good. it shift the whole important part out of the center area. it would be good if LL drop the top banner. thats very annouying positiong in the layout.

    In my case im still happy becasue i use ad-blocker so i dont see the ad’s and dont ruine the look.


    1. Yep, Ad blockers are an obvious solution for those not wishing to see ads, something I touched on when first covering the new adverts.


  2. Let’s face it: Failbook is full of ads and it’s actually a snooping system that sells users’ private data to advertising companies and the occasional oppressive regime (if the price is right); I don’t see why I’d be fussed about seeing ads in the various websites of SL. As long as they’re not thrown into my in-world experience, I’m OK with it.

    Hint: I use Adblock.


  3. SL had trouble updating the “from” email address for the email notifications a little bit ago, so I doubt they will be able to figure out how to make the ads not appear for premium members, unless they hire an outside developer. I’ve been using the Adblock extension for Chrome and Firefox and now I can’t see those ugly ads anymore. Google Adsense should make them some money but they’re not going to lower tier/land rates.


    1. Yesm it was the e-mail update (and other aspects of web property management) which crossed my mind the first time I saw calls for Premium accounts to be excluded.

      I agree, ad revenue on its own will not lead to lowering tier; and it would be a mistake to think it will, and I’m certainly not saying that at all.

      However, LL does need to rotate away from tier as a source of revenue, at least until such time as the numbers of those using the platform can be shown to be growing to a point where the current land mass within the grid can be adequetely supported – and possibly grown once more.

      Ergo, as part of a broader strategy, advertising could stand to assist in bringing further easement to the Lab’s reliance on tier as a major source of revenue, regardless as to whether anything from a broader strategy filters through to tier in the short / medium term.


    2. I’m a bit confused about that statement: “SL had trouble updating the “from” email address for the email notifications a little bit ago, so I doubt they will be able to figure out how to make the ads not appear for premium members”. How are things related? One thing doesn’t preclude the other. It would be like claiming, “LL can’t figure out how to stop people’s inventories from growing, so they cannot successfully manage a virtual world”.

      Figuring out who is a Premium member ought to be very easy, just put that information into a cookie after someone logs in 🙂 and depending on that cookie’s value, display or hide the ads. That’s the quick & dirty approach (but would be easy to subvert as well) which takes perhaps 5 minutes of valuable programming time. 🙂

      It’s also not so hard to use the same ad block to display Google Ads or resident-bought ads (or rotate among both). I mean, I have a plugin for WordPress which does just that; LL has given up on WordPress long ago (one of the most silly decisions they made; not the silliest, they have made soooo many! 🙂 ) but I’m sure that they can arrange something for their crazy platform which does precisely that. The disadvantage for people using ad blockers is that this will prevent Google from showing ads, but not residents (assuming that someone wants to have a completely ad-free experience, that is).


      1. I think the comment was more a case of a lack of conviction that the SL web propertiers are being efficiently managed. As I replied, it was one of many issues which crossed my mind – although the fact that we’ve still to get a genuine “single sign-on” to all of the SL web services which to me points to the services perhaps being somewhat disparate and separately managed. If this is so, then the question of API incorporation and configuration does become more relevant, as it could be left down to the individual teams (such as the Commerce Team, who appear to be responsible for managing the SL Marketplace property as distinct from anyone else) to manage.

        For me, however, the bottom line is that whether it takes a 2 minute, 5 minute, 10 minute of half-hour tweak to the system is irrelevant. LL won’t be interested in removing ads from Premium accounts because a) they can (as people have done here) point to browser-based blockers) for those who want to avoid them, or b) unless there is one almighty clamour from the majority of Premium accounts.


    1. Hence why LL are casting their net wider :).

      Actually, I think the fact that many don’t use their dashboard as the clearest indicator as to the ridiculous state of LL’s “official” outward communications. There was a time when the SL website was a vibrant place, with news and information which encouraged us to seek it out and use it. Today, the dashboard is pretty staid and largely stale (outside of friends lists and the status & events updates). LL tell us they don’t use it for major announcements as “no one uses it”. No-one uses it as LL won’t communicate through it – so… *shrugs sadly and puts soapbox away*.


  4. Well, as I pointed out, it’s not as if Google Ads are “excluding” residents from placing ads on LL’s websites — rather the contrary. Google AdSense allows “Location”-based ad placing, which means you can tell the exact URL where you wish your ad to appear.

    Of course this is not so fine-grained as the current way to place ads on the SL Marketplace, but it’s not an “all or nothing” solution. In fact, I’m sure some merchants are drooling over the idea of placing ads on LL’s websites – Dashboard and all.

    The difference is that Google AdSense is not pseudonymous (Google will know your bank/card data!), and it doesn’t accept L$, of course 🙂


    1. It’s been a while since I last looked at AdSense… what kind of API do they have? Can LL waste developer resources on creating their own in-house ad agency through which residents can convert L$ to $, or use the US$ in their account to pay for ads?



      1. That could be a handy property for LL to have, assuming it can be done & they have the resources to manage it.


    2. Oh, I’m sure many are 🙂 – hence why I drew the distinction between merhant ads appearing on the website in general and on the Marketplace, where there may well be concerns from those not using Adsense but who are using the listing enhancements for reasons of pseudonymity or whatever, in terms of the value of their placements potentially being undermined.


  5. I’m reminded of the Futurama episode where Fry rails against ubiquitous advertising. “Back in the 21st century they didn’t push ads on us like this. They were on billboards…and magazines…and TV, and the internet, radio, websites, movies, mail, newspapers…but not in our DREAMS!”
    (this comment brought to you by Lightspeed Briefs!)


  6. I’ve only seen adverts from two sources. There are Linden Labs adverts for Versu, which they surely don’t need AdSense for, and there is a series of adverts for buying stock ibn well-known technology companies dealing in such things as non-Windows computers, searching for stuff, and selling books. These all converge on an operation which seems involved in the dodgy end of the financial markets–do you really think you can make money by doing FOREX trades on your smartphone–and seems of dubious legality to advertise outside the USA.

    Linden Labs are not impressing me.


    1. There are ads from a variety of sources (see the image I grabbed from the Marketplace).

      I don’t personally think I can make money “buying” a slice of Google through the other ads as posted, and I agree the filtering could be better there; but this seems to be the nature of Adsense right now, and it is a negative aspect across the board and not just with LL – I’m finding exactly the same on a couple of other sites I use. That said, the of god-awful dating adverts, tacky weight-loss ads and the like which first slammed up on my screen when the ads started have now apparently vanished – I assume because LL are tightening some of the screws on the filtering.


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