Behavioral Targeting in Second Life

29 04 2007

As you might have heard on the Metaversed Podcast there is something going on in the Second Life advertising space. It’s called behavioral targeting and is all about presenting you the right ads in the right context.

It basically means that information of you is collected, such as where you have been last, where you have been shopping and so on. This information is then used to present you the right advertisment when you are next to a billboard. If the system is clever it can even predict what you might need next (like if you last bought a house you might need furniture).

Now the Berlin based Second Life ad agency “Inworld Advertising Network” (IAN) (english summary here) run by my friend Sebastian Küpers (Sebastian Otareed in SL) in Second Life now in collaboration with created such a solution. There is a demo installation setup on FutureAd-Park where you can visit six spots which stand for a certain topic like lifestyle, travelling and so on. If you enter one of these your interest-profile gets adjusted accordingly. After some calculations this interest profile defines which ads you get to see next on one of the billboards on the area. You can read the whole explanation on the IAN blog.

What about privacy?

Now the big question with such systems be it on the web or in Second Life is the one of privacy. Now every website using such systems have a privacy policy (somewhere hidden usually) and the proposal of IAN is to have such a policy also in Second Life, e.g. in the covenant of the sim.
Possibilities to also delete your profile and opt-out completely sound like to be added to the system soon.

What might be the issues?

So I personally must say that I in general dislike all billboard ideas and I guess I will not put any up on any sim I have control over (and I’d rather would like to opt-out in seeing them as I could do with an adblocker in my browser). But it seems that many (at least german) people do not think like I do, at least if you judge from the appearance of german sims such as Apfelland and so on. These are full of advertisement.

What I see in this approach as the problem is how to make sure that my privacy is secured. I don’t think that having some privacy policy just in the covenant would work for me. I rarely read any covenants and I assume only few people do. It’s somehow like those hidden privacy policies which are merely a legal defense in that you can say “ok, but we’ve written it there” when people complain.
And in general collecting data about residents has always been a big reason for disputes (Mark Barrett, you remember that? ;-), most recently probably about the new search engine. So we need to see how people react to it and if there’s maybe also a difference between german residents and the more international community (as we are mainly talking about german sims here).

The question is also in which areas billboards in general might work. There are basically two types, one for advertising something in-world (like the EnBW campaign from IAN) and one for advertising something outside (like the Gothaer campaign), referring to a webpage. I’d actually like to see how the “click-through” and “teleport-through” rates are for this (for the first type one probably could find out easily by checking the traffic on those sims).

The additional challenge with behavioral targeting might be the mix of those two types of ads and I wonder if there soon is a mechanism to track a “customer” more completely in that you know what he’s doing on the web as well as what he’s doing in virtual worlds or maybe even in Real Life.

Seeing over the years more of a traditional opposition to billboards in Second Life it’s interesting to see though that this might be changing. The question nevertheless is if this is the right way to approach virtual worlds inhabitants. I merely ignore ads and if a company wants something from me I’d rather like them to come to me and engange in a real conversation instead of just dropping images on me.
There might be a good way to earn money with such stuff in these early days we need to find out where this might lead.

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4 responses

29 04 2007

Apfelland is full of ads because it is run by a company that runs their outworld business based on lots of cheap advertising, too. Germans dislike Ads as much as other people. And what really puts me off on this new way: it doesn’t have a good way to prevent that data collection. SL doesn’t have a way to block cookies like browsers have – you give out much more information than a typical browser does (and for browsers there is stuff like privoxy, that hides your data if you want to). For me places filled with avatar scanners that collect my behavioural data will be no-go zones, plain and simple. It’s this “all your data belong to us” attitude that regularily pisses me off, even though I am myself a tech guy. It’s the wrong way around it happens, all just for the sake of accomplishing “the next big search engine” or “the next big advertising thing”. It sucks. Bigtime.

29 04 2007
Inworld Advertising Network

Why Second Life needs billboards

The Inworld Advertising Network is selling ad space on billboards within the virtual world second life … and this way of advertising gets quickly under fire when it comes up to marketing in virtual worlds. Let us tell you why it makes sense and w…

29 04 2007 » Blog Archive » Behavioral Targeting im Web und SL

[…] Tao macht sich Gedanken über Behavioral Analysis in Second Life. Er geht dabei auf die Datenschutzerklärungen ein, die auf vielen Webseiten versteckt sind. Er ist […]

1 05 2007
Ordinal Malaprop

Argh! Yet another profiling system! Look, I simply don’t want people logging where I’m going and what I do, let alone via an automated system spread out over the grid – is that too much to ask?

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