If engagement is what every advertiser craves,

If engagement is what every advertiser craves, Second Life offers it in spades. The virtual world’s 600,000 “residents” create personas (avatars) and while away hours building cyber utopias and socializing. They are so engaged that Second Life has a functioning economy, complete with property rights and a currency exchange (the LindeX).

Already, Starwood has built a model of its upcoming aloft hotel chain, and American Apparel has built a virtual outlet. If Second Life can make the leap from the Dungeons & Dragons crowd to the mainstream, it could become fertile ground not just for ad messaging but market research and even product development. The far-out possibilities make it an “on-the-horizon” media property to keep tabs on, says one buyer.—B.M.