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.'
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