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Virtual Worlds Used to Advertise TV Show

In the near past, The CW, an American broadcast television network that is a joint venture of Warner Brothers and Viacom, produced a deal with Second Life’s Linden Labs to make available as a last name “GossipGirl”.  Gossip Girl is a prime time soap opera that runs on The CW, and the series has a devout fandom of mostly teenage girls.

Today it was announced that American broadcast television network, NBC (of NBC/Universal) is teaming up with virtual world for teens, Habbo, to produce a character that advertises for NBC series Heroes.  The character would not be one of the primary characters from the series — instead, it would be an original character that would cross-reside on the NBC website devoted to the series,  According to the press release, the new character is apparently a bot, designed to bring the interested individual around the Habbo world and into the website as a “virtual messenger”.

Having written about the co-optation of online audience activity by NBC’s Heroes (upload of paper forthcoming, and to be presented at ICA in Chicago), I find it interesting that they are moving into this new media, and specifically targeting a teenage audience by their selection of Habbo.  This new advertising move comes at a time when the series’ ratings have been falling steadily for over a year now, and the series is desperately trying to reinvigorate the series on the production and, apparently, marketing angles.

Also, it is interesting that they choose to go with Habbo, which has not received the mainstream attention as has Second Life.  Not only is this advertising in a virtual world, but it is niche advertising at that — the teenagers in Habbo are more likely netizens or cybercitizens who are more familiar with and interested in online activities — the same type of people NBC was catering to with the creation of their website and Evolutions expanded experience game.  Whether or not these are the same people who actually watch the show more I cannot truly say at this time.  I can say that they are the viewers NBC is probably most aware of because of their activities online, which can be tracked and herded for their own benefit.  Promoting and maintaining the loyalty of such viewers is of high priority in an era of nichecasting.

ADDENDUM — Apparently you do not have to be a teenager to be a member of Habbo. I got an account with my 30 years of life. And the Heroes advertising begins on the login page, and again at the startup page,  Heroes on Habbo. There is a poll to register yourself and be granted an ability, as well as a main character, Syn Anders, who is there to lead you through the Heroes experience in Habbo and beyond. So far there have been at least 185 people who have visited Syn, judging by the messages left at her house.

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