March 29, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

MTV goes '4D' with virtual-worlds push

NEW YORK--It already has one of the most valuable brand names in television. Now MTV is hoping it can repeat that success as a marketing leader in virtual worlds.

That was the cable giant's message during a three-part keynote address Wednesday morning at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference here.

The company is calling its new cross-platform strategy "4D." Essentially, the approach will attempt to combine content from MTV Networks' television shows with fully 3D virtual worlds and then put it all through a feedback loop in which people can interact with TV personalities and create content that becomes part of the shared experience.

Virtual Laguna Beach

"We really believe that this is going to profoundly change the ways that brands like MTV interact with their audience," said Matt Bostwick, senior vice president for franchise development at MTV Networks' Music Group. "There's no tight storyline you're following. It's an open experience."

Already, MTV has launched two branded virtual worlds, Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills. These take the story lines of hit shows Laguna Beach and The Hills, respectively, and weave them into a large, public 3D digital environment in which users can meet the shows' stars, or "live" the lifestyles of the programs.

Now, MTV is preparing to unveil Virtual Pimp My Ride, a virtual-world version of another of the network's hit shows.

Playing on the notion that the three TV shows take place in Southern California cities, MTV has created a virtual "highway" that will make it possible for users of each of the three virtual worlds to visit the other two.

The environments were created using Makena Technologies' There.com platform, but each are closed off from the general There.com virtual world.

The MTV keynote was among the early sessions of this two-day conference, the first of its kind to bring together major media companies and virtual-world platform developers in a bid to advance marketing in 3D environments. The most talked-about virtual world at the event is Second Life, but other players, including There.com, Entropia Universe, Whyville and platform developer Multiverse Network, are also on hand.

MTV seems particularly enthused about the way it's leveraging its virtual properties as advertising media. And to a room full of major media executives eager to hear how they too can make money in virtual worlds the words of Bostwick and two other MTV executives were very good news.

According to Bostwick, more than 600,000 registered users have signed up for Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills in just six months, and the company expects that number to rise to 3 million by the beginning of December.

Dream metrics for advertisers?
He added that the metrics for the two virtual worlds were an advertiser's dream: 64 percent of users come back regularly, users visit 1.4 times per week for an average of 37 minutes each time, and users have so far logged more than 72 million minutes in-world.

Earlier in the keynote, MTV Networks Executive Vice President Jeffrey Yapp said that according to the company's internal metrics, 99 percent of users of its virtual worlds are exposed to branded content, and as many as 85 percent voluntarily interact with those brands.

"What's in it for you guys?" Bostwick asked. "Our ad model is to take people from the current exposure model, which works well (on TV), and to go from seeing an ad to interacting with your brand."

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MTV, virtual worlds, MTV Networks, metrics, PepsiCo

5 comments

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It's, like, so real!
Last I checked, my monitor projected a 2D image. The real world is a much more immersive and interactive environment. Membership is free.
Posted by unhappybirthday (2 comments )
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Right...
You don't pay taxes? Buy food? Pay bills?

Don't get pissy because other people have the ability to enjoy this.
Posted by T.Scott (11 comments )
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Savvy
That is actually one of the smarter and more savvy plans I've read for real-time 3D systems and product marketing. They get the feedback-loop aspects that so few have so far. Pepsico was one of the first major brands to use 3D during the first wave with VRML as they took the intiative to have 3D banner ads created. I still have those models here somewhere. Now they've consolidated what they learned and are trusting the platform march to support some of the original visions for deploying the technology commercially. A corporation with corporate memory.. Imagine that!

The cost barrier and the big risk spike is still having to rely on a single vendor or platform. It makes it harder to recoup content investments. That has a minor impact on branding by disabling sustainment costs to smooth out across media but given how much of this is throwaway materials to a marketing budget, they can afford it until the technologist haves and the content have nots reach an accord.

Go Pepsi! Be sure to make points earned in the VR worlds redeemable at every local corner market for the 12-packs. Be sure to make recycling a content theme even in the VR worlds. Green is green.

len
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
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Wow, huge funding!
It seems that nowadays investors are funding crazy ventures, blowing 40 millions in "There"? The last I heard, these investors were placing 10 millions on the new startup <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mobdown.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.mobdown.com/</a> that is competing against other social community sites. Really interesting to see how mobdown.com will fare against these giants.
Posted by AlienEric (42 comments )
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Your weekly second life crap article
You know it has to be in here somewhere. If not in the headline hidden somewhere else.
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
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