Partying With American Apparel — And Recovering From the Hangover

by Alphaville Herald on 26/06/06 at 1:03 pm

by Dow Jonas

AastoreFour historic events occurred on a recent Sunday in Second Life:

1. Aimee Weber and Barnesworth Anubis appeared in their underwear in public.
2. Philip Linden changed his t-shirt.
3. Pictures of RL women in various stages of orgasm were posted around a huge, exciting build on a private island.
4. A RL store opened its realistic doors in Second Life.

Did I put those in the right, newsworthy order?

Well, of course any one of these events had occurred before, but this is the first time they all occurred together! The question is, What is their meaning?

AaaimeeThe panties Aimee was sporting weren’t a fraction as pretty as those she designs in the vast virtual world of Second Life, fueling the fantasies of journalists about the emergence of a 3-D web. The new t-shirt Philip donned for the occasion seemed bland compared to his usual rock T with its gaping mouth. Geez, pr0n is scattered all over SL in practically every home — that’s news? And what is a RL store, anyway, when SL stores have made RL money, fame, and fortune for their owners and when Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, and even the buttoned-down BBC have all debuted in Second Life?

AagirlNevertheless, the convergence of all these avatars changing to life-like skivvies, and El Presidente himself even freshening his look for American Apparel’s gala opening night mean that Second Life is indeed at a very historic juncture, poised to change from a glorified, 3-D chat room mainly about sex with links to shopping sites on the Web, to — a glorified, 3-D chat room mainly about sex with links to shopping sites and a few other things we don’t even fully understand yet.

Look, it’s all in the synergy. If you happened to get the illicit IM and the secret-handshake TP into the coded sim of Lerappa on Sunday (hey, that’s Apparel spelled backwards!) then you could feel the energy crackling. Lerappa, like other sims straddling real life and simulated life, is a new kind of portal that serves as a kind of converter from 220 volt to 110 volt and back — with all the accompanying sparks.

With all the enthusiasm about mixed reality, we’re not quite sure which way it will go yet — and it might be bi, like the trendiest of avatars. For some, contemplating the millions joining virtual worlds in games like World of Warcraft or even the open-ended social world of Second Life, the intriguing opportunity for marketing comes with intuiting what the avatar wants, and keeping a keen awareness that the avatar is a kind of inventory of inventiveness, a projection of another, desired self — a fact that the august Harvard Review has now acknowledged in a landmark piece about virtuality and advertising.

For others, it’s not about the worlds, which are too small in population and too niche in their tastes, it’s about the cachet of big companies and big-name brands adding on to their savvy PR toolkits a roll-out in a virtual world. Second Life affords ample opportunity for such expeditions, of course, and it will get better when they can more fully link objects in-world to HTML in Web pages.

The more successful of such expeditions have been achieved by involving guides like Aimee Weber or the Electric Sheep Company, who are not only familiar with the often cranky toolset in Second Life, but have built up their own in-world personas, reputations, and networks. It’s a far more complex and expanded notion of what Tony Walsh has called the “advertar” — not some guy wearing a branded t-shirt or sporting the virtual equivalent of a sandwhich board, but a live, interactive, rich-content persona who makes it happen, who bridges the world, who moves people in both directions — in-world to fulfill their fantasies once their favourite company is seen in SL, and out-of-world from the SL population to network and connect — and shop (or perhaps to learn) on other Web sites and in the Real World.

El Presidente’s new look

I’m sure I’m not the only avatar whose typist is going to think twice before passing by an American Apparel store, and will likely walk in — in search of a shirt just like Philip’s. The recollection of dancing virtually on the coolest little floating dance pads in SL — they really should put out more of them! — could possibly influence my decision to buy clothing in RL. Or let’s say I’m already an AA shopper and I hear about this cool place they have on the Internet and I check out SL and look for Aimee and her friends on this cool island sim.

AarackThe trick will be in sustaining these high-energy conversion points. Some of these RL/SL islands or mainland hang-outs seem like one-trick ponies by the time the requisite or even Fortune Magazine hits are made; all too often, their traffic dips to the lower double digits and the artists and designers and programmers rush on to the next big project.

The key to keeping these places alive will involve not only hard-working avatars willing to come up with fresh content but active groups to join and events to participate in and involvement with droves of people. Maybe the direction of the trend is going out from in-world to World Wide Web these days, but companies will likely wind up coming back to virtual worlds in the end to sustain the customer base generated there.

While it seems an article of faith about these worlds that 10 percent of the creative types provide all the content and entertainment to the other, passive 90 percent, in fact the 90 percent have become used to doing a lot more in games and virtual worlds than just watching. They want stuff to click on, interactivity, somebody to talk to, some game or social activity to participate in — otherwise they might as well just go back to AIM and eBay. The Lindens may find themselves wishing they hadn’t dumped all those club owners whom they used to support with events grants and developers‚ incentive awards. Hopefully some of them will dust off their resumes now and apply to help RL businesses with long-term vision meet people where they spend a lot of their time nowadays — in virtual worlds.

Asked by a reporter if he had dreamed of SL someday seeing a RL store open in Second Life selling RL girl’s underwear, Philip Linden replied, “I dreamed about a lot of things!”

13 Responses to “Partying With American Apparel — And Recovering From the Hangover”

  1. Tony Walsh

    Jun 26th, 2006

    “It’s a far more complex and expanded notion of what Tony Walsh has called the ‘advertar’ — not some guy wearing a branded t-shirt or sporting the virtual equivalent of a sandwhich board, but a live, interactive, rich-content persona who makes it happen, who bridges the world, who moves people in both directions”

    I’m not sure I’ve completely defined what an “advertar” is, but it certainly doesn’t have to be as crass as you suppose. It could easily by the live interactive persona you describe–and really *should* be, to fulfill similar concepts in other fields. The advertar is to the avatar as the advertorial is to the editorial.

  2. TrannyPet Barmy

    Jun 26th, 2006

    just on a note of people laying claim to phrases and words, i’d like to lay claim to “avatard” :) I’ve been using this word to describe a large proportion of people in SecondLife for many months now(which can be supported by numerous posts on as well as here) which i guess qualifies me to lay claim.

    Many thanks in advance for accepting TrannyPet’s claim to a new SecondLife and other virtual world’s word.

    Yours always sincerely and respectfully to the utmost

    TrannyPet Barmy
    The REAL ONE
    [future editor of the SecondLife Herald]

  3. Dow Jonas

    Jun 26th, 2006

    I’m fairly certain that the people dealing in SL with RL companies as hired consultants or artists or programmers would resent being called “advertar”. That’s why I tried to make a distinction. And my understanding of your original usage of this term (though I’m happy to be educated) was that it *was* perjorative, and that the “advertar” is usually created by a company wishing to utilize a character in a game, in just the crass way noted, not like the use of an avatar by an individual player who might want to personalize his character.

    If this “live interactive persona” has a whole dimension beyond their immediate role as essentially a hired PR agent for a firm, they are something far more than an “advertar” — it’s more complex than the advertorial/infomercial/editorial/commercial sort of problem in advertising.

    We’d have to understand more about what an avatar is, too, and surely an avatar is different things to different people, in different games.

    Is Hamlet Au an advertar? Or was he? Or isn’t he something more? And so on.

  4. Tony Walsh

    Jun 27th, 2006

    Dow Jonas wrote: “I’m fairly certain that the people dealing in SL with RL companies as hired consultants or artists or programmers would resent being called ‘advertar’”

    I can see that at some point I’ll have to post an article describing my definition of an advertar :) There’s more in my head at this time than I’ve previously written on the term. Your analysis of the term is useful in shaping the definition.

    I don’t think a consultant or content creator is necessarily an “advertar.” Like I said yesterday, an advertar is the embodied version of an advertorial. It could be an avatar specifically created by a company to act as a billboard, to engage in word-of-mouth marketing, or astroturfing. It could also be an avatar hired or sponsored by a company for the purposes of advertising a product, service, or brand. Think the virtual-world equivalent of BzzAgents ( Another word for this is “shilling.”

    When an avatar’s main function is to increase your appreciation or awareness of a product, service, or brand, they are an advertar. By this (still embryonic) definition, I don’t think Hamlet Au is an advertar, but it’s weakly arguable that Hamlet Linden was an advertar in the same way it’s arguable that being paid to write about Second Life by Linden Lab makes one’s stories advertorials.

  5. Emerie Mauriac

    Jun 27th, 2006

    well,anyway…aside from the arguments on the term “advertar”, the fact that American Apparel has also joined the SL ranks continues to give Secondlife credibility. The company is getting alot of RL press right now as the hip new clothing company, and they felt an addition to SL would benefit them in some way. That says a hell of alot about influence. I for one, though, will continue to search out new and little known designers in SL because of the creativity and uniqueness…and who knows, why can’t we flip reality and do a vice versa? I know its being tried….that’s the stuff that makes me go WOOT!!

  6. Barnesworth Anubis

    Jun 28th, 2006

    im always in my underwear :/

  7. Dildo Baggins

    Jun 29th, 2006

    Porkofky Beaver is an Avatard!

  8. Dow Jonas

    Jun 30th, 2006

    I’ll have to think about this some more, but just because one’s stories are advertorials doesn’t mean the writer is totally an “advertar.” And just because someone designs for, or clerks for, a store inworld, doesn’t mean they’ve become a walking sandwhich board as I wrote. There’s some notion of their multiple roles even in the add-on role of a second life in the first place. Unless…there isn’t, and one of the goals of marketing nowadays is to wash out the lines between people’s public and private roles and try to get to them at every level they can. Of course, we find it intrusive and obnoxious. Perhaps the companies are trying to distract from that intrusiveness through the attractiveness of games and the immersiveness of virtual worlds.

    BTW, one could argue that Hamlet still retains his advertorial capacity because his blog is linked to Linden’s home page, and he still seems uncritical of most of the SL experience.

  9. One Song

    Jul 1st, 2006

    “Aimee Weber and Barnesworth Anubis appeared in their underwear in public.”
    No offence but who is the right mind gives a flying fuck about that. I can see maybe some people caring aobut Philip Linden’s “unusual” change of his avetar’s clothes but come on now? Who is Dow Jonas anyways, well its a rhetorical question. I know Dow Jonas can be used by any of the SLH writers. I guess what I am trying to get at is that who ever is behind Dow Jonas that there is no suprise he has to post one of the wrose stories I ever read on the herald, the quality of this blog is gettting wroser every day that passes. Maybe is time to consider packing it up and calling it a day so we can at least refer to the old skool stuff and have good memories of when the SLH kicked ass.
    Here is Brittain we have have the famous taboild called the Sun, well I don’t read it cause its full of opinioned crap from the people that least matter, or have anyone’s ears or respect. One thing is for sure the Sun right now is at least 1,000,000 more attractive to the average reader than this is. Sorry if I offended anyone or many but someone had to say something. Good day.

  10. Mr. F

    Jul 2nd, 2006

    Where are the orgasm chicks at?

  11. Sonja

    Jul 3rd, 2006

    Read the article, decided to check out the place in SL. Nicely landscaped, interesting architecture. The concept is interesting, the meshing of RL fashion in to SL. Though I was very disappointed about how little content there was. Tere was maybe 10 items tops in the entire place. It’s a nice try, but I’d like to see some more meat on this bone.

  12. TrannyPet Barmy

    Jul 3rd, 2006


  13. Dow Jonas

    Jul 3rd, 2006

    Hi Plastic and Mr. F! Not sure whether you need there to be *more* girls in stages of orgasm or less, or *more* Aimee and Barnes in *less* attire…or less.

    Are we to strive to become more like the Sun? As for the pictures, they were on the walls upstairs. As for the content, I didn’t find anything to click on and buy at the opening or when I went back to take a peek, if they are starting to put out more stuff now that’s interesting.

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