How to advertise in virtual worlds

OpenSim is still in the early stages of development, so it’s rare to see advertising billboards cluttering up the virtual landscape – or ads for OpenSim hosting providers during the Super Bowl broadcast.

Maybe “rare” is the wrong term. Make that, “unheard of.”

And a lot of people would see nothing wrong with that. Who needs ads, anyway?

Well, the thing is, ads serve a valuable – if sometimes annoying – function. They help pay for media coverage. They let customers know about products and services they didn’t know about, and maybe didn’t know they needed. And a strong advertising campaign is an indicator that the advertiser believes in the product enough to invest money in marketing it.

Although advertising in a virtual environment is a little different from advertising on the Internet or in a newspaper, some of the traditional methods can still be applied. You’re still trying to catch people’s attention, you’re still trying to sell them a product — only this time instead of putting a graphic on a webpage or a newspaper, you’re putting it into a virtual world.

Free advertising space available on Hyperica billboards. Submit your ad here.

Hosting OpenSim-related ads

Thanks to the increasing popularity of V3-compatible viewers in OpenSim, more people are able to use media-on-a-prim. By putting media such as video or picture onto a prim, it’s really easy to create an advertisement in-world. The ad could be put on a sign or on the side of a building where a lot of people go, for example.

If you’re having a large event, this is a great opportunity to put up ads. Having a lot of people in one area can increase the number of people seeing your ad — which means more pay-off for less work. If you’re hosting a large entertainment event, like a concert, then you can hand out free goods to people, like a shirt, that have both the name of the event and maybe a small ad on it as well.

You could also host a series of small events, which would give people incentive to keep coming back, which could give you an opportunity to run a number of different ads, instead of just one big one every once in a while.

Another way to advertise in a virtual world is to add an advertisement to a freebie box. Simply put together a collection of nice freebies, then add an ad in there as well. As long as you don’t go overboard, then users shouldn’t have much of a problem with it, since they’re getting free stuff as well.

Social media can also be used to advertise. If you’re having a discussion on Twitter or have an event planned on Facebook, it is possible to sell your Tweets or Facebook posts. However, if people know you’re selling your social networking posts, this could cause users to not only question your integrity, but also to stop paying attention to your posts altogether.

So how do you find advertisers if you’re a land owner, social media maven or blog owner? By personally reaching out to merchants and vendors who have products or services your visitors or readers might appreciate.

Don’t expect to make a fortune from selling ad space, however. Advertisers want to see tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of impressions, and you’re not going to get that in OpenSim.

You can offer free or low-cost advertising space to merchants or groups you believe in, charge per impression, or ask for a cut of the sales that result from your ad.

Using OpenSim to advertise

The latest “V3” Second Life viewer supports Flash and JavaScript in media-on-a-prim, so old Web advertisements can easily be reused, instead of having to make new ones. However, cookies are not supported by media-on-a-prim – and not all users will have the latest viewer.

Some grids have a V1-style viewer as their official viewer, as well. Depending on viewer usage, you might want to go with graphics-on-a-prim instead. OpenSim has a functionality to pull an image from the Web and put it on a prim, making it easy for you to update an ad without personally visiting every prim that has it.

In addition, using media-on-a-prim may raise some privacy concerns. By streaming something from a Webpage onto a prim, then the viewer is essentially accessing that Webpage, and therefore the Webpage can monitor the IP addresses of everyone who sees the ad. In a virtual world, this can sometimes lead to problems. Many users of virtual worlds are extremely sensitive about privacy, and if ads are known to track IP addresses, then users aren’t going to want to spend time on your grid.

Also, since there is no ad blocker currently available for a Second Life or OpenSim viewer, users are stuck with either seeing all the ads, or seeing none of the in-world media-on-a-prim. If your ads are getting too annoying, then people will just disable all media-on-a-prim.

For these reasons, a Web-loaded texture on a prim may be preferable to media-on-a-prim in many cases.

Meanwhile, because traffic is low, expect to be able to negotiate very favorable rates for your ads with grid and region owners. The biggest problem you’ll face isn’t the price, but getting them to agree to your ad in the first place, since the idea is still new.

Good places to put your ad – if you can swing it – is grid welcome regions or favorite gathering spots, at popular events, on viewer welcome screens, and on grid websites.

Blogs can also be a good advertising location. And don’t hesitate to trade ads with other merchants, even your direct competitors. After all, if someone is shopping for shoes at Shoes-R-Us, and can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re the ideal customer for your Shoes Emporium – and vice versa. But, to be honest, it takes a broad-minded merchant to agree to advertise their direct competitor. You might be better off trading your shoe ads with Purses-R-Us instead.

And don’t forget about Second Life. Even if you’re selling OpenSim land, products or services, it doesn’t mean that Second Life users won’t be interested. In fact, they might be your best source of new customers.

After all, existing OpenSim users already know where to rent land. But Second Life users might be very interested in your offer of low-cost land, high prim allowances and personalized customer service.

Related Posts'

Amanda Green

Amanda Green is an online writer who normally writes about finance and business. Amanda Green has recently been writing more about traditional business and advertising, closing studying the business operations of CEOs such as Kent Entugral, Chief Executive Officer at Phorm. You can read more personal finance writing by Amanda Green at

4 Responses

  1. Ener Hax says:

    we were thinking of approaching certain manufacturers to see if they wanted to “sponsor” parts of our educational builds – both in-world and in a printed workbook

    for example, a wind turbine manufacturer could have a replica of their turbines built in our world with their name on it and also carry sidebar mention in our book

  2.' Arielle says:

    Personally I am somewhat surprised that viewer devs haven’t started using their viewers opening splash pages for advertisements. Should be worth relatively big money as it is the one page that all virtual world residents see.

  3. Gaga says:

    I’ve been arguing that point for ages, Arielle and also for a better grid manager and search function…

    I think SL are making better use of their splash screen with a destination guide that opens when the viewer is initialized so that shows what could be done. I think Firestorm will possibly do more for Opensim in this respect if they stay true to their word and produce an Opensim version.

    But, in any event the opening splash screen is definitely ripe for the picking and I can imagine hosting companies would pay good money to get a mention on the opening splash screen of a popular viewer.

    Anyone of the devs could set up business and make money out of it since the open Metaverse presents more commercial opportunity than dose developing for Second Life which only Linden Labs benefits from in the end. I remember one developer tried to get crowd funding but didn’t get enough donations to hit the target. And I don’t think donations alone will ever support a team of developers.

  4. Here’s a problem though and I’ll draw on R/L to illustrate.

    My in world time has considerably decreased due to starting a local business. I got to a place of needing to advertise its launch and ran into a problem: local paper/radio both suck in that they don’t reach enough people to justify their pricing.

    Sooo…being the resourceful one I am, I revamped my original course to create a vehicle that solves that problem and I created a hyper local direct mail advertising paper and because the source I use for printing can do it for insanely cheap rates for a quality product, I can undercut the local paper by nearly 75% and reach every mailbox in town.

    Now, the thing I’ve discovered is that a business owner wants to advertise, but the business owner forgets he/she is also a consumer. As a consumer, NOBODY gives a rat’s tail about your ad. They don’t care. It’s invasive, obnoxious, spam, junk mail, and “advertisers” completely ignore this reality that all the ways and means they use to get their message out, 9 out of 10 times, alienates their audience.

    I visit a website, I don’t want ANYTHING popping up on me to advertise something and if it does, I’m gone and never return. I listen to a radio, I’m flipping the channel when their 15 minutes of commercials come on. When I check the mail, if it’s not a bill or letter, it’s going in the trash.

    The way I went about solving the “junk mail” problem for my paper was honestly and truly taken from my first days in Second Life. The only stipulation for a business to advertise with me at these low rates (literally less than $300 to reach thousands guaranteed) was that they offer a straight up freebie. (I had freebie boxes in mind).
    Everyone loves free stuff. May not be interested in all the stuff in the paper but they’ll take it with them out the door.

    In SL, when I visited freebie shops, if they simply *gave it out* without any obnoxious restriction I’d take and enjoy it…and they were the ones I’d go to when I was ready to buy something…or agreed to buy something instead of finding a freebie, because that built more credibility with me.

    If I visit a sim and there’s a chatbot or an intro info giver on the landing and it spams the chat box with 18 lines of crap about where to buy stuff, I’m muting it.

    Why not try a similar approach with a freebie’s paper with ads from various merchants (make a book hud) offering freebies. Then put that in a rack at the landing with a sign – like a magazine rack at the check out.

    If I visit your land it’s because the environment has intrigued me – and if the landing is plastered with ads, I’m walking right by them because I don’t care unless, and only unless, I’m already there because I want this widget you provide. All else is lost into oblivion.

    Advertise to consumers the way you – as a consumer – would rather be advertised to. If you start hijacking people’s pleasure trips to hawk a product or service, the stigma of spammer, money mongering advertiser, or worse is in your way.

    Just a suggestion 🙂