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6/4/2007
02:25 AM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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"Die Hard" 4 Opening Teaches An Important Lesson In Second Life Marketing. Yippee-Ki-Yay

Bruce Willis didn't have many interesting answers during a news conference in Second Life to promote the fourth Die Hard. But many of the questions were refreshingly weird. And the event taught an important lesson in using Second Life for marketing.

Bruce Willis didn't have many interesting answers during a news conference in Second Life to promote the fourth Die Hard. But many of the questions were refreshingly weird. And the event taught an important lesson in using Second Life for marketing.

A movie marketing firm called Picture Production Company, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox, launched an area in Second Life on Friday devoted to promoting Live Free Or Die Hard. It's not the first time they got together to promote a movie in Second Life; they also built an area to promote the movie 300.

The area is like a giant, 3-D movie press kit, with an auditorium showing previews, and several areas recreating stills of scenes from the movie in 3-D, including a helicopter being knocked out of the sky by an airborne car.

As part of the promotion, Willis showed up in Second Life to answer questions. As with most celebrities who make appearances in Second Life, Willis's avatar looked just like he does in real life. It was named Bee Dub. I don't know if Willis was piloting his own avatar. Probably not.

Willis was initially scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. PDT Friday, but the conference got pushed back at the last minute to 3:45 p.m., and then Willis showed up 90 minutes late. No big deal; I've been to press conferences before with superstar presenters and sometimes they're ridiculously late. Unlike other, similar occasions, this time I was able to catch up on e-mail and start writing a story, all the while monitoring events in a Second Life window open on half my desktop.

There were about 50 journalists and bloggers present in avatar form, and the text chat filled the screen while waiting. Everybody seemed to be having a good time, and nobody seemed to mind that Willis was late.

Most of the journalists and bloggers signed up for Second Life especially for this event, and had only spent a few hours in-world. I spotted a couple of friends in the audience. Like me, they've been in Second Life for a long time (in my case, a "long time" is four months; things move fast in Second Life.) We amused ourselves by sending each other snarky messages about newbs.

At one point, I commented, "How dare this guy Bruce Willis show up so late? Who does he think he is? A movie star?" Sometimes I just crack myself up.

The interview itself was conducted using voice, piped into Second Life through third-party SoundReach technology. Reporters typed their questions into the chat window.

Willis's answers were pretty much the same as what you'd hear in an interview with Entertainmeent Tonight. But the questions, scrolling by in a brisk stream while Willis and the PPC executive spoke, were deliciously weird and funny.

My favorites:

Lauryndo Barbosa: Who do you think would win a fight between JOHN MCCLANE AND OPTIMUS PRIME?

and

Kirsty Anatine: DO U GET TO KEEP ANY PROPS?? LIK A MUG OR A PLANE???

I didn't know who Optimus Prime was, either; he's apparently the hero of the Transformers, the 1980s children's cartoon and toys now being made into a summer blockbuster movie.

Several of the journalists and bloggers obviously had keyboard macros set up to repeat their questions over and over, and I saw the same questions go by every few minutes, including one long-winded one about whether Bruce would be willing to do voice-over for machinima. Short answer: Yes.

I got in a question; I asked, "Are you a Mac or are you a PC?" I meant it as a flippant reference to the "I'm a Mac"/"I'm a PC" commercials; Willis's co-star in Live Free Or Die Hard is Justin Long, the actor who plays the Mac in the "I'm a Mac"/"I'm a PC" commercials.

But Willis answered seriously. "I've always been Mac. I remember life before computers. I remember being reluctant to even jump into the world of computers, I didn't want to learn a new language, I didn't want to learn anything new." He said he's a dedicated Internet user, using it to get his news, and preferring it to communication over the phone.

The event taught several lessons in Second Life marketing.

First: Fox and PPC have a plan. They're using the Second Life area and press conference as a means of building buzz for the movie both in Second Life and outside of it. They've built an elaborate playground for people to visit with their friends,explore, and pick up a few freebies -- they'll be giving away a software copy of the helicopter and truck from the movie. They'll tear the whole thing down in six weeks.

Second: They have realistic expectations. They know that, of the nearly 7 million people whom Linden Lab claims as residents of Second Life, only about a tenth of them -- by Linden Lab's own admission -- become regular users of the service. But, said Dan Light, head of interactive for Picture Production Company, those people are strong influencers, who will convince many people to see the movie if they like it.

"The people who use it regularly are creative and tech-savvy, they're what Seth Godin called 'sneezers,'" Light said. He explained that Godin, who wrote the book Permission Marketing, used the word "sneezers" to describe people who spread viral marketing campaigns.

(That's very clever. Also: Eww.)

"They're closet extroverts, people for whom the blogosphere and the virtual space gives them a way to engage themselves," he said.

I did have another question for Bruce, which didn't get answered. I wanted to know whether he'd seen any of the Die Hard parodies on YouTube, including The Ballad of John McClane, in which the original movie is presented as if it were a silent from 80s years ago, with honky-tonk piano music and title cards; and the Die Hard music video by Guyz Nite. Warning: Occasional use of foul language in both clips, although, honestly, it's so good-natured and sweet I can't imagine how anyone would be offended.

Also: Listen to the podcast of the Bruce Willis Second Life interview, and hear Bruce say "Yippee-ki-yay" to Denmark and Mexico.

And check out my album of photos from the Second Life Die Hard opening and press conference.

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