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The New Brand Ambassadors

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Where there is intense advertiser interest, agency startups often follow. While the Second Life metaverse upends some earthbound rules—it lets people fly, for instance—this one is intact, as can be seen by the clutch of small shops that have sprung up to help real-world companies plant flags in the make-believe world.

Take Infinite Vision Media, an eight-person shop that combined with Lichtenstein Creative Media to build Dell Island. Infinite Vision caught Dell's attention last June with a blog post, when one of the shop's execs wrote on Infinite's blog defending corporations entering Second Life. It also outlined how a company like Dell could add to the community. Soon thereafter, Infinite Vision was plotting out Dell Island.

The Electric Sheep Company, which recently assisted Omnicom's GSD&M in setting up shop, has grown to 30 employees since its founding in 2005. Other new players are Rivers Run Red and Millions of Us.

In all cases, the founders have been early Second Life residents, which helps them guide clients. "This is a world they don't necessarily understand," said Giff Constable, vp at The Electric Sheep Company.

But will these new shops remain the only experts? A Second Life "developer university" this month in New York drew several agency creatives, said Linden Lab marketing director Catherine Smith, who expects them to gain proficiency. Drew Stein, Infinite Vision's CEO who goes by Boliver Oddfellow in Second Life, isn't worried. "We get Second Life," he said. "It's where we work and where we play."