f all goes well, the naked lady won’t show up this morning when Pastor Craig Groeschel preaches his Easter service. But several cats will probably drop in. A horned dragon might perch on the crimson seats. There could even, perhaps, be an emu strolling in.
Groeschel will deliver his sermon in an Oklahoma City church. It will also be streamed over the Internet to the virtual world called Second Life â€” a world populated by 5 million pixilated characters of every description.
At this MySpace-obsessed moment in culture, the contest gambit provides a cost-effective, buzz-generating alternative to big-budget music videos or costly print-ad runs. Moreover, the contests virally generate publicity and result in virtual “communities” by getting music aficionados to communicate with one another in ways that yesteryear’s fan clubs could never dream of.
It’s an equation that the labels can’t help but love â€” fans pump in labor, attention and enthusiasm, and artists reap sales. And at least at this point in the cycle, when we’ve yet to see any significant contest backlash, scandal or cynicism, many fans seem energized by the proliferating attempts to pull them into the marketing loop. For Epic’s senior vice president of marketing Lee Stimmel, who was one of the minds behind “Hips Don’t Lie (Fans-Only Version),” enabling Shakira’s music to galvanize a worshipful fan populace meant more than the song’s pop-chart ranking or radio airplay.
“It’s very hard in the media matrix world that we live in to see how a song actually resonates with a fan base and makes that fan base grow,” Stimmel said. “We showed that it can virally and organically grow. That’s something you can’t necessarily buy with traditional media. That one-to-one relationship with customers became the most powerful part of the promotion.”