Filming a live broadcast program for the internet where people can log in from all over the world and participate is riskier than Formula 1 race car driving, so agreed Richard Bartle, the father of the MUD.
It is very rewarding, and I am breaking the virtual ceiling with it, as my show every Tuesday night, The 1st Question attests. It is an increasingly popular weekly phenomenon. Giving people rewards for engagement is a trend likely to continue as you win peoples hearts and minds when you give them something palpable to play with and of course watch. I am also on the forefront of real time Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) entertainment, and my company PookyMedia is award winning for the machinima (Cinema done on machine) we produce.
I use Second Life as the platform upon which to produce, and know like days of yore when Television began live, that this is indeed The Golden Age of the Internet. In these heady days of social media marketing, the very real time MUVE of Second Life is rarely mentioned. Understanding how to use Second Life has more to do with how you use it, and is more complicated than using 140 characters at a time or how to increase the number of people who follow you peripherally. It can be used for very cost – effective, targeted and relevant marketing. It is somewhat of an art form, as advertising is also an art form and has taken years of production experience to develop what I, and my team know.
The failure of business to really connect here is due to a lack of understanding of the real marketing potential inherent in Second Life. It is what takes place around the companies virtual presence that will enhance the brand. It is about building a community. Many brands are trying to do that now, jumping in, and using any one of the social media sites such as twitter, facebook, MySpace. I also found it was futile to resist and have accounts on all 3 of those. However the platform I know and breathe and produce real content on daily is Second Life.
In order for a company to take full advantage of what this has to offer, they must have expert advice which can not be found from most marketing people or even social media faddists who have limited exposure and understanding of what Second Life is. Any marketing experiment can fail. Budgets are being slashed because they have. Companies are taking this into their own hands and to be honest this is a great thing as the company really understands their own product. Companies however do need to know how to negotiate Second Life and more importantly, how to use it with great effectiveness. This is my platform and I do share.
Below is a description of just how I have made use of this, with video examples.
Second Life as a media platform is encompassed in a variety of ways
1- To construct entertainment to show on websites.
2- To create branded communities which will appeal to marketers, consumers and companies, offering the setting / backdrop for ongoing video series.
3- As a platform for films, story boards and training films which can be made for a fraction of outworld cost.
4- As a platform for entertainment for inworld audiences who can log in and participate in live online viewer entertainment which can also be filmed and archived for later watching by web audience.
5- As a platform for entertainment which can be viewed outworld through live streaming, which is Chat Bridge enabled allowing the audience to engage right along with the show.
The Spy Who Lives Here -
In order to construct entertainment here, one has to understand how to use this platform for it. And how to film upon it. It means also understanding the strengths which Second Life has and playing to them.
Visually, set construction is a huge plus, the ability to create or recreate major structures, whether of fantasy, or from reality is great– as we see in the above example using a virtual Big Ben. Architecturally using Second Life as a backdrop or set with the help of expert builders is a great strength, it just looks terrific and is very cost effective to build.
Entertainment is of course different for different people. PookyMedia likes to create videos which have broad appeal. Video content is increasingly important for any site, and to be honest, having just a flat page with text is no longer acceptable for any serious website’s product or service. We are trained visually to accept standards of not only production value but also of content. Perhaps the “YouTubing” of our multiple generations has elicited this effect, but we expect to see moving pictures. First it was “OMG I have a picture on the internet” (remember how long you were willing to wait for one to download!) - then it was “OMG look at this flash effect its moving!” and now its- I don’t want to watch unless it is moving and is entertaining or informative. And relevant.
Ads that run on websites with related content are 61% more likely to be recalled than ads running on sites with unrelated content, according to Condé Nast and McPheters & Company, which released additional data from an earlier study about ad effectiveness in various media. This means of course targeted advertising, and video advertising is among the most important.
According to a new study by Frank N. Magid Associates, commissioned by Meta Cafe, the report finds that consumers are finding online video as entertaining and engaging as traditional Television spots in some cases. The number of people watching is growing exponentially. According to TechCrunch in June, the real number of streams/day, is above 1.2 billion/day worldwide. That pretty much means everyone on the Internet, on average, is watching one YouTube video per day. Video is beyond important at this point; indeed it is a way of life.A study from comScore concluded that “Adding this human touch gives the user confidence in the web site and company, increases trust in their brand and turns visits into inquiries.” Now a hallmark of professionalism, as well as effective customer integration, video has become extremely important.
Creating good looking avatars for film parts and as spokesmodels too is a great strength of the platform. I recently was looking at style.com surfing the fall fashion shows for 2009, and saw that Vera Wang had a Sitepal face talking- much like a talking head, I couldn’t help wonder if this done on Second Life wouldn’t have been so much better looking and engaging.
I also recommend prototyping an expensive movie or commercial first using Second Life. Storyboarding that saves time, money and creates a visual impact which can not be easily or as cost-effectively seen otherwise.
Advertising follows the eyes. Outsell Inc., a media research and advisory outfit revealed its most recent annual marketing study which predicted $65 billion will be siphoned away from traditional advertising channels in 2009 and spent instead on companies' own Web sites and Internet marketing. To scale that, compare the total U.S. TV and cable advertising revenue for 2009, which is about $66 billion. The marketing dollars companies now spend on their own sites is equivalent to all TV ad revenue for the year.
More than $80 million poured into Internet TV startups in the first quarter of this year, new marketers are jumping into the world of Web programming and online video is one of the few mediums that will grow this year.
Obviously video is optimizing very quickly, what will the content be? Production value is important and branding is important too for companies who want to get the customers attention. The question really is how to get them to interact with their brand?
Another way to use Second Life as a media platform is to engage the customer with the brand. A few years ago JWT CEO Bob Jeffrey was quoted as saying “Time is the new currency. Our job is to ensure that more people spend more time with our client’s brands. We need to create ideas that people want to spend time with. The better the idea the more time people spend with it.”
This was repeated recently by Jon Gibs, vice president, media analytics at Nielsen Online when he released a report a few months ago and noted importance for marketers has to do with time spent. "Measures of advertising online should be time-based measures rather than impression-based measures. Instead of buying 100 million impressions on a Web site, it would be buying X% of a person's time."
The next step, according to Geoff Ramsey, co-founder and CEO at eMarketer, "is to overlay the data that is unique to the online space and provides a digital footprint measuring how the consumer is engaged with the brand over a period of time." Again a measure of how the consumer spends time with the brand, where they interact and that will illuminate much. Where is the best place for customers to interact with a brand? Virtual worlds offer a tremendous opportunity for this in a variety of ways.
After you watch Beer Break, think of this as I make the point that branded communities are something I can author for a company in a significant way on Second Life What can be accomplished with a Site such as Second Life is the shared experience, and beautifully done so as well. Advertisers are missing out on the opportunity here to allow their customers the chance to really interact with their brand. And by that I don’t mean just throw up a mall, or an empty building filled with stuff and hope people find it.
I propose to give people a targeted reason to come onto Second Life, using film and create a program, a tournament, a sponsored competition (surfing?) and / or happening for people to go to on a regular basis. Being represented by avatars, people can say, “Look! That is me, my avatar on that program or commercial.” Compelling and interesting, this is part scripted show and part Virtual reality TV. (And yes if they are being filmed there has to be a TOS understanding at the event that this will be filmed)
If the live event is taking place on a regular basis, people will tune into it. We are still version 1.0 Human. We will embrace “Appointment Internet.” We will embrace the predictable event- TV has made that happen when at 8PM Sunday night in the US we all tuned into….What?
Yes Ed Sullivan- one thing I will digress for a moment upon is the observation that having edited and valuable and well produced content will never be irrelevant. YouTube is great, it’s not going away, but could you imagine Ed Sullivan (or even David Letterman if you are not old enough to recall ED) letting the first 5 people on air that night who showed up outside of his studio? Of course not- Professional entertainment is professional. Sure people can get lucky and get hundreds of thousands of hits or more with a kitten or a baby biting his brother’s finger- but to be honest- to be professional means delivering a quality product, on time and on a regular basis. Instead of scrambling for the next accidental video hit, companies need to build their consumer alliances, delivering value for their customer today, they can count more on the customer delivering loyalty to them tomorrow.
So to be considered a professional marketing environment- the company needs to establish a location for their audience to visit- they need to establish an activity for that audience to engage in, and they need to offer a compelling reason to return. Community, other people, fun things to do, prizes and the possibility of it being filmed and shown where one can say- “Hey, I was there!” has tremendous pull. Anyone who wants to attract potential customers has to provide something that will engage them, make them want to know more about the product and give them a reward for positive engagement with that product.
For example- if you were a Heineken drinker all your life and there was a game called Bowling for Budweisers which was fun to play, on Second Life. There could be a bowling alley and you could get a great 50’s retro style outfit to wear for free and you could bring your date there, you would begin playing, and have fun. There might even be a leader board there and you could win something cool if you were the top score that month. I don’t care if you have drunk Heineken all your life, you will eventually pick up a Budweiser, because it has become a part of your life and part of your play.
And let’s say there was a webisode series also filmed around the people at a bowling alley sponsored by Budweiser. Filmed weekly, with script, set and regular characters this would give people also an entertaining series, filmed for a fraction, I mean a fraction of what an outworld produced series would cost. You have activity, you have an audience not only spending time with your brand but actively engaged with it. And they are also able to come to the set where the series is filmed. They do not have to travel to Universal Studios to see it. The entire webisode series becomes part of the identification process people have with the brand.
A few companies are doing targeted webisodes, but not yet out of Second Life - Nestea is doing one, so is Alloy sponsoring one called “Privates” based on a teenage detective style novel 6 -7 minutes long, it will be available on the web only. Webisodes of under 10 minutes are flourishing, they also cost $25,000 an episode to film and edit. PookyMedia can do this for $7,500. Cost effective is a very important part of anyone’s marketing strategy today.
There is the terminator series on machinima.com which is being paid for by Warner Bros Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series follows Blair Williams, across a post-nuclear Los Angeles in six original episodes. It is the first long-form dramatic machinima series produced by a major studio.
That’s great and Warner’s is saving big bucks- but what’s missing? I see the opportunity for them to create “Terminator Park” somewhere in a MUVE where people who like the Terminator franchise can roleplay around it, and possibly become part of an ongoing community around the product. For the amount of money Warner’s spends they could buy an island in Second Life for a year and for roughly $25,000 they could have their own Terminator development module here, invite people in to film for a competition or design new costumes, assets etc for their next series- a lost opportunity for gaining great user generated content. Okay maybe not lost I’ll get my people call their people.
I do not think anyone is now discounting the value of games played online as a potential for reaching customers as it is predicted that spending on ingame advertising will reach 1 billion by 2014.
Here is a way to engage ones customers right literally and figuratively where they live & where they play - this is an important point because it also shows us that the marketing community is becoming more and more comfortable as the consumer leads them to what they are comfortable with- cartoon like images and small representational characters are well within the realm of the accepted senses and this should not be ignored.
So indeed Second Life can offer a great platform upon which to build a branded community for a large variety of products and services.
And to market any of this will not take any additional dollars but be a piggy back on existing advertising.
New research from Affinity confirms that magazine ads with URLs are more likely to drive readers to advertiser websites overall, as well as across a range of genres. Even if "drive to web" is not the goal of the advertising campaign, including a URL to boost web visits is a benefit most advertisers will appreciate. All a company needs in any of their ads which already exist is a line of drop out type that gives the name of the URL, the type of event and the happening. On Second Life this means cost effective and valuable and community building it also answers the very important requirement of time spent with the brand.
The Association for Corporate Growth / Merrill Datasites-
Another way for Second Life to be used as a marketing platform is using it as a backdrop with which to film cost effective and targeted training films. Not only films which espouse the benefits of using Second Life for business, though of course this is a valuable use of platform but to use it to tell the story to the corporation and the public they wish to reach. Yes and here we see an example of a video created for a well known corporate entity that used it as an actual filming platform-
We were able to recreate parts of Las Vegas and film this for a client saving them 10 to 15 times in real money what this would have cost. Even more because as you will see we were able to recreate as avatars, people whose appearance fees alone would be several times what the entire video cost to make- Cost effective, as well as green, no frequent flier miles were spent in the making of this video, and the electricity we used was based out of our local utilities alone. Money and fuel is saved in the making of this video as no one had to get on a plane or into a car to make this video happen.
It shows exactly what the client wanted it to show. For the person attending the conference for the first time, it gave them a virtual video playbook of what was going to happen that weekend. It completely prepared them for what to expect, and even gave them clues as to what to pack. The benefits of preparedness for a high level conference is a direct return on the investment for those business professionals, and for the sponsors of the conference.
As one can build 3D models of not only buildings, but also of product, engines, machines, fashion and anything that exists in the world, Second Life offers the tremendous ability to create videos for training, for informational purposes and for exposition.
The Dating Casino-
Another way that Second Life can provide a media platform is for something I hold very dear to my heart- I produce 2 live shows here, The Dating Casino which is on hiatus until September, and the 1st Question which will film its 60th episode this week.
I believe it is time for the world of marketing, which is fueled by advertising and products, to take a deeper look at Second Life which provides a perfect opportunity for people are able to get there for free, from anywhere in the world, any time they want to and enjoy the social experience of real time interaction. What the marketing community must realize is that Second Life is a social media platform, and that in order to tap into this they must offer something to spend time with.
The Dating Casino has 3 men and 3 women reveal their likes, dislikes and needs to know regarding the opposite sex. Through the use of a matrix board which is technically scripted to record points when a match is made, points are accumulated throughout the game. This is yet another strength of the platform. These are great boards and set show pieces which are developed by my team and used in broadcast to “light – up” and be part of the set’s ongoing visual activity. “The Matrix Board of Love” shows where the points are being accrued. The podiums before which the contestants stand have their answers on them when they are asked, and the questions and the multiple choice answers are also on a fabulous looking graphic board for the audience and viewer at home to see. The set looks fantastic. The Dating Casino also encourages the audience to reveal their preferences to the questions asked as the contestants also answer in real time. They play along with the game and have a lot of fun doing so. Development of cool visual tools to further the game and the show is very important in having the broadcast look great.
The Dating Casino is one example I would like to see picked up by a major sponsor, and then incorporate the sponsor right into the show in the best traditions of The Golden Age of TV. No pre roll, mid roll or end roll. The sponsor is part of the show itself, and the people watching don’t stop as it is seamlessly incorporated into it.
And I will acknowledge that sound is one of the big issues for Second Life and being able to negotiate this is a critical part of doing an effective on air show. The good news is that sound has been improved greatly through the use of Skype for broadcasting and recording. This will only get better.
The 1st Question
I produce shows that people are thrilled to be a part of. The 1st Question has a weekly audience which loves playing along as the show is taped, yes live. They watch it in video archived on the site afterwards, and it has become very popular. It is the Quiz Show to The Stars! The audience interacts as if they are also the stars, and to be honest, they are. It is a fast paced hour with the audience voting along, and guessing the answers to the questions in real time as it happens.
I originated this kind of viewer log in entertainment on another MUVE, HabboHotel and can attest to the popularity among all age groups of being able to take part in live entertainment. But it has to have merit, it has to be well produced and it has to have content in order for it to be viewed and for it to grow an audience.
Game shows are cheaper to produce outworld as well- one game show cost $90,000 USD to create, here I could do 20 shows for that amount. VERY cost effective. 'The Price is Right' made its TV debut in November, 1956, over 50 years ago, and it is still on TV! Games shows are obviously a very good & valuable entertainment commodity.
Pookymedia is producing original game shows on the internet, with another 16 shows that we would like to develop with the right sponsor and broadcast partner.
The 1st Question is streamed live and the ability to stream media is also huge here of course. Streaming video and music will generate more than $78 billion in network-derived and content-derived revenue over the next six years in the United States, according to a recent study by The Insight Research Corp. The streaming market is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 27 percent over the next five years, driven by on-demand audio, on-demand video and the accompanying advertising revenue. "Over the past seven years, as we've tracked the developments in streaming it has evolved from an esoteric niche to a mainstream market," said Robert Rosenberg, Insight Research president. "What we predicted way back when is coming to fruition. The advertising revenue that long supported traditional TV is gravitating to this new medium, putting downward pressure on traditional TV distribution schemes.”
The kind of live stream shows that can be originated on Second Life are exciting and broad in appeal. Live streaming also includes the use of a chatbridge which facilitates a much larger audience and enables people to play right along with the game. And viewer log in comments are a way to attract and build an audience.
There are other audiences, whose needs could also be addressed in this manner, including business and news reportage. To stream a nightly business report with an expert panel and offer people from around the country and world the ability to find an open networking happening every night relevant to their business, relative to their interests is huge. And would make use of the expertise and personality of the people who know their field. Connecting with the viewer is what we can now offer, in ways that only the internet allows. Use of this technology will propel the shows and sponsors who employ it. Second Life offers real opportunity for programming, community building and branding.
In thinking about how people view video, it pays to think about how people already view video. The experience of watching is certainly not new, and there are loads to understand and appreciate about viewing patterns inherent in the traditional TV audience. The screen has shifted yes, but the same eyes remain firmly in place the species “video on the Internet” is very different from “traditional TV programs” but the species Human has not changed so very much, for example:
The average number of TV channels that people actually watch has only gone from 10 channels in 2005 to almost 16 channels in 2006, despite the number of channels going up from an average of 41 to 104. The relevance here is that people have “viewing habits” whether on the Internet or television. People will go back to the same thing again & again if they get something they like there. The Internet caters to people’s tastes and, according to PodTrac, a high percentage of Internet audience members tend to listen or watch the same“station” (for lack of a better word, or “site” if you prefer.) Think of yourself, what number of different actual sites do you go to willingly? Do you tend to visit the same sites over and over again? I think we all do. That’s why we have cookies.
The beauty is there are so many ways to engage the viewer, consumer and to benefit an interactive audience. The Virtual World platform is unique. Second Life is all of this.
Here is an opportunity to involve and entertain an audience on a regular basis, offer compelling and cost-effective video product.
PookyMedia Films delivers high quality and entertaining filmmaking over the Internet. Using real-time, interactive 3-D engines instead of expensive 3D animation software makes it possible for the costs to be highly competitive and attractive. Feel free to contact us, the time is now.