While I was attending Virtual Worlds 2008 in Manhattan a few weeks ago I did an interview with Steve Victorino of There.com which I didn’t really get a chance to write up till now. I don’t generally take notes because I find I can’t really concentrate on what people are saying to me while also focusing on jotting down what they’re saying to me. If it were a matter of just recording what is being said, a recording or podcast would do better than my approach – but if you want insight and synthesis of the information, stick with me.
There.com is located in San Mateo, and perhaps, if I had time, I’d go over to their offices when I’m in San Francisco in a few weeks for Emetrics Summit.
Victorino has been with There.com since the beginning, he’s the president and COO of Makena Tchnologies that runs the platform. I didn’t really have a sense of the internal operations at There.com, or so much how There.com is different, better, worse than any other Virtual World Platform I saw at Virtual Worlds 2008, but I did have a spirited conversation with him on marketing, philosophy and how virtual worlds are evolving – how brand is more powerful in virtual worlds, perhaps, than in the real 3D World.
I found it to be a very interesting conversation that lasted a full half hour and it gave me the desire to find out more about There.com.
We also talked about CC Metro and Coke 2.0, one of the branding worlds that There.com set up for Coke, but all the worlds that are set up in There.com and vMTV (Makena Technologies runs both platforms) are PG-13, unlike Second Life, which can have all kinds of content. In other words, There.com is soposed to be safe to bring you kid to, to bring anyone to, while other platforms might have content that needs to be restricted. According to the New York Times:
Coke is introducing its online island within a larger virtual world site called there.com that tries to filter out unsavory content. The company that operates there.com, Makena Technologies, uses software to censor user postings for foul language and employs a team of people to filter out content that might infringe on copyrights or fall outside a PG-13 rating. Makena, of San Mateo, Calif., says that these practices make its site desirable to advertisers.
At CC Metro, Coca-Cola customers can buy clothing and accessories for their avatars using reward points culled from codes on Coke bottle caps, which can also be used at mycokerewards.com. Customers can dress up their avatars as they move them around the island.
“It’s really bringing the offline world, where you’re drinking our products, and the online worlds together,” said Carol Kruse, vice president for global interactive marketing at the Coca-Cola Company.
One of the things I noticed is how There.com audits the creation of “user generated content” before allowing it to appear in their virtual world environments.
BTW, last year, at Virtual Worlds 2007, I attended a Lunch with There.com and wrote about the Essence of Coca-Cola and did a painting about Branding in Virtual Worlds being more powerful than real world advertising (which disturbed me, in a way) – here’s the painting I did last year:
“….Now, with the help of Joe Jaffe’s agency, crayon, Coke has launched a contest, called Virtual Thirst, to design the perfect vending machine for Second Life. Rather than dispense Coke bottles, the company wants the machine to emit the “essence” of Coke—i.e., “refreshment, joy, unity, experience.” (If that sounds a little vague, at least it’s low-calorie.) A couple of video entries are posted at Virtual Thirst’s YouTube page—in these, the machines mostly give off music and light (though one offers “experiences” like a dude spinning on his head in a fire pit). All of them would look even better if I had some virtual weed. More at Jaffe Juice.”
So, I gave this interview my “all” trying to summarize both Steve Victorino and my feelings about what goes on in Virtual Worlds including There.com and what they’re doing with Coke.