Update, 7/31: Chris has a reply to this post (and quotes my rejoinders) at his blog here.
Last Friday I contacted Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson about my critique of Frank Rose's article on failed marketing in Second Life, to get his perspective. Chris told me he agreed with the article, and Rose's subsequent defense of it. Fair enough, though I still maintain the piece doesn't begin to offer a full and nuanced consideration of the subject.
Why? Well, consider the time when Chris Anderson himself used Second Life to market a product.
Last October, Chris appeared in SL to sign virtual copies of his excellent book, The Long Tail. I was honored to host the interview session with him, in an event produced by NWN partner Millions of Us. About 30 Residents showed up. Not a lot, but then again, about what you'll often get at an appearance in a real world bookstore.
After that, however, my illustrated transcript of the SL chat log of Chris Anderson's appearance garnered about 90,000 page views, and is still often read; a subtitled YouTube video of the appearance produced by Millions of Us has been seen 2657+ times, and when you Google "Chris Anderson", it currently comes up as the 61st hit out of 1,270,000 returns.
So here's the question: when considering the effectiveness of marketing Chris Anderson's Long Tail in Second Life, how many pairs of eyeballs should be counted? Just 30? Or another number?
In my view, this is the kind of consideration that a fair appraisal would include, but one that Wired left unexplored. (And my specific rejoinder to Rose's reply, so far unanswered, is here.)
Other variables worth covering: length of engagement in SL, versus other ad mediums; quality of engagement, in terms of brand immersion and recognition; quality of potential participant, considering Resident demographics as content creators, bloggers, early adopters, etc. A full analysis would also include comparisons not to web-based ads, or other mediums, but marketing in other virtual worlds. (Here, I should say, SL will probably come up short, at least in raw numbers. For example, when a movie studio marketed a film in Gaia Online with a scavenger hunt, the CEO told me recently, it attracted hundreds of thousands of users.)
All that to one side, it is still nevertheless true that SL developers have yet to create an unambiguously compelling and unique example of real world advertising that is massive or effective enough to convince honest skeptics. (As I believe Chris and Frank ultimately to be.) This was true last October, when I first pointed out the lack of audience for these marketing efforts, and remains so now. Until then, articles like the one in Wired, and before it, in Forbes and the LA Times, however seriously flawed they are, will continue being published. No amount of debunking will ever be as effective as a single killer app of SL marketing.
So far, however, none exists.