It may have been easy to get marketers to invest in virtual worlds two years ago — but the economy (and the Second Life backlash) has changed that. With budgets getting scrutinized across the board, companies like Linden Lab, Sulake (parent company of Habbo) and Stardoll need to try to convince advertisers that paying to brand virtual goods, set up in-world experiences, or otherwise run campaigns in their worlds is still a worthwhile investment. How do they do it? With metrics. LA Games Conference panelists offered some examples:
— It’s still about scale: iLEMON secured $2 million worth of sponsorship money for a new virtual world based on Jackie Chan’s upcoming film, Big Soldier. CEO Calvin Ng said they were able to get the money by offering different metrics to different brands: “We guaranteed one advertiser that 20 million users would sign up. We guaranteed another that 2 million people would use their virtual item once.”
– A laundry list of options: For branded goods, advertisers want to know how many times someone “touched,” “viewed,” or “used,” the items. For in-world locations, Sanrio Digital’s VP of publishing and biz dev Bob Ferrari said companies like Baskin Robbins want to know “how players are engaging” with their property. Are they buying ice cream? Are they using it as a meeting place? Lastly, Sulake’s Teemu Huuhtanen said marketers also wanted website traffic, so they tracked how many hits Habbo could send back to specific landing pages.
— Paging Nielsen — we need standards: Even though ROI varies depending on the world, the advertiser and the ultimate goal of the campaign, panelists still acknowledged the need for some common engagement metric. “It’s hard to get beyond eyeballs,” said RocketOn CEO Steve Hoffman. “Advertisers are used to big buys, and most brand managers don’t have time to manage things and figure out which engagement metrics are best. We need to fix that for them.” Palmer agreed: “We need to come to standards with a third-party like Nielsen or the IAB.”