You might have heard through many different channels that Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett was going to launch Leo Ideas Hub, a virtual counterpart to their agency network, inside the online world of Second Life.

According to AdAge, "...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."

Great idea, Mark. But that's not all.

Among other news in the september 29th edition of the MediaGuardian (dot co dot uk) :
BBH launches virtual advertising agency. And I quote: "Bartle Bogle Hegarty has opened a virtual advertising agency. BBH's move, within online virtual reality world Second Life, comes as rival Leo Burnett unveiled plans to set up Leo Ideas Hub, a virtual creative department, using Second Life to bring together its agency creatives from around the world."

BBH's virtual agency. Cosy. Of course, the general public isn't allowed.

What's also interesting is the Guardian's following quote: "Advertisers and agencies are eager to tap into the fast-growing social networking phenomenon but many have been holding back unsure about the best approach."

Eager? Now, I'm a bit surprised : Until last year and the arrival of the YouTube phenomenon, ad agencies were quite slow in adopting the general internet as a true, mass-media channel, let alone the "social networking phenomenon". Even now, the web thing is still misunderstood by most : web-based communicational actions are sometimes still a sideshow to an official ad campaign, and only when budget permits, says mommy. (Except for the recent Rush Mylo web-based campaign, but as I previously said, the guys at McKinney + Silver just rule. Don't tell me if there are TV executions, I don't wanna know.)

I'm being a tad sarcastic, but you can't blame them: There was internet, yes. There was the web, yes. But these were only enveloppes, only life support. There were no true media channels within the web that concentrated users on the same viewing point, for prolongated and recurring periods. "Surfing the net" was, and still is, an act that constantly challenges an ad agency's capacity to own the consumer.

But now you have consumer-generated content, you have branded content, you have video games, you have online communities : you have ways to reach the public on its own turf.

And now that AdAgencies are recognizing these new channels, they're re-discovering the possibility of "owning" the consumer. They're accepting these new channels as "mass-media", best proof being that they're even organizing themselves inside them. So I'm saying, great! NOW GO, AND EDUCATE THE CLIENTS. Not that all of them are miseducated: Telus, God bless them, already had the idea.

Leo Burnett, Bartle/Bogle/Hegarty, these are only the first. I'm sure Montreal agencies won't take long to follow-in, most of them are media-attention whores. Wow, did I say that?


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