Sunday, January 17, 2010

Avatar vs. Avatar: Will Fans of The Movie Find Happiness in Virtual Worlds?

New World Notes beat me to the punch on a story about the Avatar Movie being used to market Second Life and IMVU. So I took the opportunity to create a web comic considering the topic.


Anonymous said...

The comic asks a good question, but personally I feel a strong "eh, maybe".

While the film falls just shy of showing us some very apt interpretations of avatar identity (it has to be broadly entertaining, after all), I feel it generally only highlights the potential we all imagine in our heads.

World of Warcraft players can relate to Jake's journey from newb to accomplished warrior with mount and epic flying mount training to boot, while SL residents enjoy a rather unspoken dialogue about the pleasure of adopting a new avatar.. but this last point is something we introduce to online worlds ourselves. There are never any guarantees that anyone will find this, and as much as the film may raise awareness.. aren't we still fighting the whole "SL breaks marriages" stigma by trying?

Michele Hyacinth said...

Just as an aside, there seems to be a disconnect between SL's marketing use of "Avatar's" Na'vi and SL's marketing of a largely homogenized world on its website. The machinima "What is Second Life" kind of sort of maybe introduces some fantasy, some other worldly aspects (primarily masquerade balls) but largely the presentation of What SL "is" feels very traditional and an appeal more to companies perhaps? So now with the success of "Avatar" is SL trying to appeal more to creatives again? (never mind a reactionary attempt to capitalize on a hugely successful movie). But this seems to bring into focus the dilemma LL seems to have about how it wants to market SL (including how it wants to be known) and who it wants to attract.

Botgirl Questi said...

Sinnyo: I agree on the maybe. It's just interesting to think about what the impact might be if a large influx of people enter Second Life based on their movie experience.

Michele: Great insight! There is definitely a disconnection. But I don't think it's that uncommon for banner advertising and other direct response vehicles to use images and messaging different from other forms of advertising and PR. The goal of a banner is mostly to get clicked, rather than contribute to branding.

Michele Hyacinth said...

I hear you, Botgirl, and agree that's what usually happens. But for the sake of continuing this discussion because it's fascinating to me, here's a question. Isn't the most effective branding one that delivers on the promise of the experience/product and doesn't just push out a trademark or a logo or a name or recognized color pallette or in the case of Second Life(tm) what increasingly comes across (experientially) to the residents as a digital face-palm? I haven't clicked through the banner ad to see if their Na'vi-like implied message of an alien world and creativity leads to a landing page that depicts an out-of-this-world creative experience with alien cultures, but the marketing campaign would have been far more powerful and more credible if it had such a connection from the banner ad to the brand promise. If the only goal is click-through to a sterilized virtual world where no "sub" culture is represented (I miss the good ole days when we used to see Furries on the website), the disconnect is so huge that it has to hurt the conversion rate. If the ad makes me believe I can find a virtual Na'vi-like experience and I see absolutely no evidence of that after clicking through (in fact, I see the polar opposite of it), it doesn't build credibility. What it ends up doing is really broadcasting a blatant attempt to capitalize on a world depicted in someone else's movie. Second Life had that creative abandon, one that celebrated a multitude of artistic expressions and cultures way before Avatar the movie. It's ironic somehow that it took a blockbuster movie to remind them. In my humble opinion, companies that succeed with branding do so because they look beyond the logos. They know that what they're truly doing is constantly building-branding trust in the experience more than anything.

sororNishi said...

Yes, the actual main "push" by those who control the general bias in SL is towards the complete opposite of Avatar. Roads, little slum houses and poor imitations of RL seem to get the Lav's backing.
I personally feel that this is a major mistake and hope that Avatar makes those in charge of policy rethink things a bit.
Those signing up for avatars on the back of the movie will not be aware that it will be 5 or 10 years before that level of graphics is available in SL and may be very disillusioned seeing the very basic situation we have learned to live with.