Leo Burnett Buys Space in Virtual World

Claims to Be First Agency in 800,000-Person Second Life

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Leo Burnett Worldwide is hoping that setting up shop in a virtual world can improve its real-world results.
Within Second Life, Burnett bought 16 virtual acres, which are currently inhabited by little other than a tree growing the agency's signature apples and a coming-soon sign.
Within Second Life, Burnett bought 16 virtual acres, which are currently inhabited by little other than a tree growing the agency's signature apples and a coming-soon sign.

Major account losses
The iconic Chicago agency -- which has absorbed the losses of long-held, major accounts such as Cadillac and the U.S. Army of late -- is opening an "ideas hub" within Second Life, a virtual, three-dimensional, internet-based alternate reality "inhabited" by nearly 800,000 people worldwide.

Second Life in recent years has also been attracting a growing number of marketers, such as ESPN, Adidas and American Apparel, that hawk virtual wares and host brand-boosting events there. But Burnett claims it's the first ad agency to buy "real estate" within the construct.

Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel said the shop's presence within the virtual world would break down geographical barriers to collaboration between his network's 2,400 creatives. "I don't want brands shackled by geography," Mr. Tutssel said. "It lets all of our creatives live in the same place."

Burnett bought 16 virtual acres, which are currently inhabited by little other than a tree growing the agency's signature apples and a coming-soon sign. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the Second Life website lists 16-acre "islands" for $1,250, plus a monthly "maintenance fee" of $195.

Virtual representations
Created by San Francisco-based Linden Labs, Second Life lets people create virtual representations of themselves that interact with others, swap ideas and even virtual property.

Mr. Tutssel said a secondary benefit of Burnett's presence will be an opportunity to interact with the thousands of consumers who reside in the alternate universe. But he stressed that no in-progress work for current Burnett clients would be viewable there.

He described Burnett's foray into Second Life as part laboratory and part global water cooler for the agency. "It's not a virtual agency, but it is a cathedral of ideas," he said. "It allows our collective creative firepower to come together."
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