I have always maintained that experiential marketing may be even more important in the virtual/online world than it is in the real world (I would love to see a Jack Morton study on that!). So it is no surprise that this blog is becoming inundated with posts about virtual experiences.
This post is no different, other than it involves a network that is at a crossroads between television and their audience: MTV. It has dawned on the cool cats at Viacom that they might be losing their cool creds, and that maybe…just maybe…television isn’t where the action is.
Well, heck. We knew that for a few years now. But MTV — as vibrant and avant garde as they thing they are — hasn’t woken up to the cold, hard fact that teens don’t respons to TV like they used to. So, if MTV can’t deliver them The Real World, they will now begin delivering the the virtual one instead.
This New York Times article says that:
…the cable channel aims to push the boundaries of false reality one step further. This week, MTV will introduce Virtual Laguna Beach, an online service in which fans of the program can immerse themselves — or at least can immerse digitized, three-dimensional characters, called avatars, that they control — in virtual versions of the show’s familiar seaside hangouts.
“You can not only watch TV, but now you can actually live it,” Van Toffler, the president of the MTV Networks Music, Film and Logo Group, said in an interview.
Wednesday’s introduction of Virtual Laguna Beach is the first of three virtual worlds that MTV plans over the next year as part of an effort to steal a march on popular Web sites like MySpace and YouTube that have diverted the attention of the MTV audience….
…Of the two other virtual worlds planned, VMTV is a music destination where visitors can club-hop among hip neighborhoods, buy music, watch videos, sing karaoke or even start their own bands. The third virtual destination, LogoWorld, an offshoot of Logo, the gay and lesbian cable channel, will be designed entirely by its participants.
One of the appeals of virtual worlds for MTV is the possibility that advertising can spill over into the real one. Visitors might buy a digital outfit for parties using currency they earned watching an infomercial or checking out a new product for an MTV advertiser. Then, they might decide that they would like to buy the same outfit for their offline selves, and, with a few clicks of the mouse and some real dollars, have one shipped to their home. In trial form, Virtual Laguna Beach has advertising relationships with brands including Cingular, Pepsi-Cola, Secret and another Viacom company, Paramount.
Oh yeah, it wouldn’t be MTV if they couldn’t make a buck off of the kids. The article states that “residents of Virtual Laguna Beach will have the opportunity later this fall to get a virtual car and a virtual house for a gold membership fee of $4.99 a month. For $5.99, a platinum membership will get them status: V.I.P. access to nightclubs and other events to be staged ‘in world.'”
Let’s hope the experience is worth it.