Remember the homeless avatar in Second Life that got a lot of attention a few weeks back?
Rik Riel and Nedra Weinreich also wrote it up and I suspect it probably inspired a few Second Life Doubter's Club posts.
So, I was curious and wanted to find out if there were any results. I try base my opinions on research. So, I took the extra step of an interview. As I've said elsewhere on this blog about Second Life, it isn't yet the best medium for fundraising, but to get attention for a cause and connect with people - there's some opportunity. What happens when the novelity wears off?
I received an email message from one of the staff members from the NPO Mensajeros de la Paz who teamed up with their PR agency to run this campaign. Here's the update I received along with the photo above.
In less than two weeks, the presence of spanish NPO Mensajeros de la Paz with a virtual homeless kid has received enough Money to sponsor a child. The amount received is more than enough to mantain healthcare and education to a child for a month. (According to the web site, that is 20 Euros per month. )
Resides that, the presence of the kid has been talked about in various blogs and popular websites, generating visits to the video and the web, and several support coments.
The homeless child is being controlled by volunteers and is called MensajerosDeLaPaz Jubilee. . Because of the results obtained, the action will keep going.
I also tracked down the avatar in Second Life and did an interview with the people from NGO involved in this campaign.
1. How did you come up with the idea for the campaign?
The idea came up when we were talking about Second Life, and that you start the off without anything. So we thought about a virtual person with no properties. From there, we started to research how to create a digital abandoned child that would live in SL without family nor home, asking for money. If SL commercial activity gets in the news, why not our social cause? So, if we get media coverage for this, and for the cause of Mensajeros de la Paz, and it helps them help people and it isn't a large investment why not?
2. Did the organization implement this or did you, as pr agency do it?
We had the idea in ArnoldFuel, which is an advertising agency, and since it was not very complicated to do the tech part, we've implemented it ourselves. We will start to train someone in Mensajeros de la Paz who's gonna be responsible for the avatar if the action works. It's a low cost experiment.
3. What are the logistics of working the avatar? You mentioned that several of you are operating him.
We created an avatar, the cardbox, the sign, and recorded a video to show our creative directors. We presented to the client. The people in Mensajeros de la Paz got very excited, because it could reach an audience that is not easy to communicate with and hasn't been asked to support their work. . So, with everyone's approval, we started last week to move him. In this first week, it was Salvador (the art director) and myself who moved the kid and talked to people.
When we're working in the agency, we keep SL running with the kid, and everytime someone approaches and talks to us, we answer, and ask them to go to the web (www.mensajerosdelapaz.com) or the video in YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=BOz2x9cYUhQ). When we go home, we leave the computer connected, and the kid sleeping inside the cardbox. That's the way we found to keep him always there, and not appear rude because he can't talk.
The other task we have to do is convert the money received both from SL into PayPal because people are giving the charity money from outside of Spain - which is new.
4. How much money have you collected? How many people in second life visited you?
Our priority wasn't raising money - we've raised enough for a month of sponsorship - 20 euros. We got exposure though. More than 5,000 people saw the video on YouTube, 1500 saw the web. Google has more than 40,000 references of Mensajeros de la Paz+Second Life, most of them in blogs that have great audience.
5. Have you been able to draw attention to issue of homeless youth?
It's the same argument all NPOs use. But somebody has to do something about the world, and we think we're doing our share.
6. If you had advice to other people doing a campaign in second life, what is your advice?
We hope that people stop and think a little bit about it. You know, we can't reach everybody everywhere, but we can do a little part. In SL we can talk personally, and answer the people. Somebody thought the kid was someone trying to scam. I could tell him I wasn't there to get people's money, but to help. You can donate Lindens to the avatar, you can donate to Mensajeros de la Paz via PayPal, you can wire transfer in your bank, you can give hours of work in any NPO near your house, but, if you can read, eat three times a day, have a computer and can pay US$ 10 monthly to play SL, you can also use the same amount to garantee that a kid will be healthy and go to school everyday somewhere in this RL.
My advice? Do not think SL is equal to the real world, neither think it's very different. Some rules don't work, so, if you only imitate your campaing inside SL, it may not be effective.Yeah, I got a huge building, equal to my company's real building. So what? It doesn't necessarily atracts people. What atracts people is really the experience, and that's why we didn't want to let the kid seated there motionless without anyone controlling him until we discovered how to let him sleep. If people ask, you have to answer.
On the other hand, people in SL want it to be like real life. They tend to believe the kid is a beggar. Someone gave us a chocolate cookie. Other people expelled us from a newbie site, threating with banishment, because they thought we were scam. Others didn't like to see poverty in SL. I saw in a blog the first day something like: "you keep all day asking for money on TV, and now you're here bothering us in SL?". Yes, we think we're bothering people, the same way a kid in the street asking for money when you're inside an air-conditioned car in any third-world country bothers. But he's trying to survive.
So, the world of SL is different from real world. There's no gravity, laws of physics doesn't always apply. But the people in SL are the same. Some are good, some bad, some indifferent.