Become your avatar. Again.

secondlifeThey say there is no such thing as an original idea.

In the Lab’s case, there appears to be no such thing as an original marketing campaign.

Three years ago, they ran a campaign “Become Your Avatar“, asking people to “star” in ads which put them up with their avatar in an attempt to draw-in new users.

It was a campaign which was – both within and without SL – somewhat ridiculed. The message itself, to the uninitiated, appeared confusing and ultimately and the whole thing appeared to be something of a flop in most people’s eyes.

The original campaign
The original campaign

Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the Lab trying it again in late 2011 – and it received about as much “positive” feedback from observers at the time as the original.

Now in fairness, we don’t really have any way of gauging how well either campaign actually did; they could actually have done remarkably well, despite the jaundiced eye many of us (myself included) cast over them.

be your avatarWell, guess what? The Lab are looking to run it a third time, and are calling for people willing to “star” alongside their avatar in a new campaign to be launched in the near future.

The announcement reads in part:

We are now casting both humans and their avatars for a new promotional campaign that will be featured on SecondLife.com and across the web.

For this campaign, we’re looking for people who are comfortable revealing their “human side” alongside their avatars in Second Life, like in the image above. Specifically, we are looking for those whose avatars do not physically resemble their owners.

This promotion aims to spotlight the diverse and creative communities in Second Life, so please apply if you’d like to share your passion for Second Life with the world!

To be considered, please fill out this application form by 11:59 PM Pacific on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. All submissions will be reviewed by the creative production team for the campaign, but no personal information provided will be disclosed publicly unless you are selected and specifically consent to participate.

We look forward to hearing from you!

I’m not sure what to make of this – other than the fact I won’t be applying. As noted above, just how well the original and follow-up campaigns did is hard to say; we just don’t get enough data on sign-ups and retained users nowadays to make a realistic assessment. This means it is easy to err on the “not very” side of the success equation.

For my part, however, I just wish that someone at the Lab would put more thought into finding something that is fresh and original and which might find broad-range appeal rather than constantly re-running the same ideas. The talent pool within SL is as deep as it is broad, and there would seem to be plenty of opportunities for the Lab to work more collaboratively with users to promote the platform than this approach, as I’ve mentioned myself in the past and also more recently.

While “tried and trusted” may appear to be the safe / easy / assured option for the Lab, it does tend to come with a problem beyond its perceived success. A problem I would hope the Lab take time to note.

Many out in the world – gamers, pundits, et al, already regard Second Life as one of “dead”, “dying” or “past it and not worth the effort. In constantly re-treading the same ol’, same ol’ by way of marketing efforts, the Lab is actually doing very little to dispel such views.

Still, if you feel like having a go – don’t forget the application form and the closing date of 23:59 SLT on Wednesday, May 1st.

17 thoughts on “Become your avatar. Again.

    1. Hey, if High Fidelity and Second Life were to merge, would we all be in for the High Life? And would that perchance make the Adult version Second (in)Fidelity? Although that begs the question, what about first timers?

      …I really should lay off the cold medicine at this time of night…

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  1. *FACEPALM* – Instead of recruiting someone like Draxtor to come up with a marvellous presentation of SL to the outside world, they’re trying an idea that has been ridiculed twice so far and has failed twice already. Whatever it is they’re smoking, it must be pretty strong.

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  2. Not that this will ever see the light of Linden, but why not promote what longtime residents love about SL? For my part, the opportunity to get involved with poetry – I write for a living but never did much “creative” writing until I stumbled on to it in SL. Here I could try it, read my work out loud to real people that didn’t live in my RL so it was pretty safe and I was able to be in the comfort of my own home doing it. This all transferred to my RL eventually and I still enjoy my poet friends inworld as well as all the other creative people here doing the same thing – the musicians who get to try out material here, build their RL fanbase, graphic artists who have fantastic tools to play with here, people who are learning new languages, discovering music they never have the opportunity to hear RL, and on and on…lots of really amazing RL reasons and great stories to come inworld here rather than in the “game” worlds…but I guess that’s all too boring…;) It would be great to see those stories rather than the romance and porn stuff that makes up most of SL’s RL image…I’m just sayin…

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    1. Absolutely.

      At the risk of tooting my own horn, this is what I mean in discussing narrative marketing (as linked to in the article) and SL. There is enormous power in people’s own experiences – as clearly exemplified in Draxtor’s outstanding World Makers videos (also referenced in the article above, and referred to in an earlier comment).

      The Lab is very much missing a trick here, to the detriment of the platform.

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  3. I’ve been seeing once again these “My avatar and I” ads, and at first I was puzzled as to why, after so much time, the same campaign was running. (Saw one on the NYTimes.com site today, obviously a syndicated ad buy space.) So your explanation of the resumed campaign makes sense.

    Except that generally if a campaign isn’t successful one doesn’t run it again. But here goes the Lab trying to re-run a flop, which is really perplexing. I assume this is something generated internally—as no third-party advertising agency would attempt to renew or revise that campaign—and the Lab would be well served to hire a competent ad agency. (Or, if this is from an agency, to quickly change whom they’re working with.)

    Given that SL’s “image” is a “challenge” I’d sooner see a series of ads that illuminate the difference between SL in 2007 (the “boom” era perhaps) and SL in 2013. Maybe side-by-side images with 2007 avatars contrasting with 2013 avatars, or 2007 blocky builds next to 2013 elegant mesh. If shedding that old image is important, the Lab needs to make people aware that textures and experiences have change dramatically, and all this “my avatar and I” ad run does is … nothing. If anything, those “my avatar” images (no offense to Amy and Lorna) look pretty mediocre.

    And why would you want to “become your avatar” to begin with?

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    1. The “then and now” idea is a superb basis for a campaign – one which works on so many levels (the reality of how SL has developed, the opportunities it presents for people with widely different interests and, of course, shattering the perception that SL is “yesterday”).

      /me Pokes Rod in the rib and points to Ziki’s idea.

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  4. Hmmm… is there a real ad for the new campaign? Nobody knows how to use Photoshop at the lab? They could have done something about the overexposure and the shadows under the eyes. Were I Lorna I’d be pretty upset by the unflattering result.

    I have the feeling that Drax’s videos influenced this choice. We know for sure that some Lindens find his videos well made, as I saw a positive comment made by the official LL account to one of Drax’s videos on Google+. Someone must have said: hey, look what the Drax does with RL people, this works! And they decided to revive the old campaign… 🙂

    As others have pointed out, Drax has hit the nail on the head on how to present SL in an appealing way by both showing its potentials and by showing that behind those avatars are “normal”, creative people and not a bunch of sex-crazed pervs. However, other factors should be considered and Drax’s files are an excellent starting point from which to spin new ideas to present SL in a creative way. One thing to consider is attention span: as good as Drax’s videos are, they require people to pay attention for a few minutes by watching a full video. For a casual web user there is one factor missing here: why should I watch that video if I know nothing about SL or the little I know is rather negative?

    My guess is that a video is an excellent promotional tool for people who want to know more. What is missing is that immediate message that tells the viewer a message at a glance and make him/her think: hey, that looks fun, I’d like to give it a try! Taking this into consideration, LL’s ad campaign is not entirely off mark. What is off mark is that the message is weak or nonexistent.

    Another thing to consider about the Drax’s files is that they can be very appealing to the creative type who has skills or is willing to learn. But they could probably be quite intimidating for the vast majority of people who don’t have those skills, and we know that the majority of the users use SL as a social platform and not as a creative sandbox. So, as excellent Drax’s World Makers series is, I wonder if the concept could be extended so to appeal to people with a different set of interests. In her comment Romie makes an interesting point: do you need to be a whiz-bang builder to enjoy SL? No, you could enjoy poetry and meeting people with the same interest. Or music, etc.

    What is very appealing about the Drax’s files is that it creates a narrative by showing who the SL users are, their interests, their motivations and how they take them into SL. The next step is how to get people to watch those videos, thus condensing this narrative into an ad that people look at and say: hey, I want to try that!

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    1. The key to me, as Ronnie has mentioned and you’ve picked-up on is that SL is an excellent tool for narrative marketing – but this is what seems to repeatedly escape LL’s understanding.

      I’ve suggested elsewhere in this blog (again, linked to in this article) that Drax’s concept could work with a 60-90 second video ad – it’s surprising what can be said in 60 seconds. Handled well, it could outstrip the promo videos we’ve so far seen from the Lab and offers the freedom to get the artists, storytellers, poets, musicians and so on under the limelight as well.

      The main limiting factor with a 90-second video is it can only focus on one thing. Hence the narrative needs to be broader than a single medium; perhaps linked to a “2D” campaign similar to the “Become” idea, but which is more rounded and obvious.

      There are lots of ways SL could be promoted and serve to intrigue and attract users; as with so many things surrounding SL, however, the Lab seems to be stuck in a “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle of thinking.

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  5. Am I the only one who sees a fundamentally different tone in this campaign?
    The previous campaigns focused heavily on recreating your RL self one-to-one in SL, coinciding with M’s strategy of getting rid of the freaks and dreamers, to make room for the real, desirable users who *should* be using SL.
    With the new one focusing on different avatars, it’s closer in spirit to Blizzard’s “What’s your game?” campaign.
    Whether it could be communicated better/differently is an open discussion, but to me, this campaign is substantially different from the previous ones.

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    1. I might be wrong, but I thought the 2nd campaign also de-emphasised the avatars-who-look-like-their users approach.

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      1. That is possible. I honestly don’t remember. (Or I may even originally have missed that there was a second, different wave).
        I just seem to recall that a fair bit of criticism about the original campaign, and part of why many thought it missed the point, was the condescending focus on “we need better users” at the time.

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        1. The first campaign certainly did focus on the direct “avatars who look like their users” approach, and did draw a lot of criticism for doing so at the time, I agree. It took place towards the end of the Kingdon era, IIRC. The second campaign (if it could be called such) occurred during Humble’s first year as CEO, when things were “opening out” somewhat.

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