12 avatars to rule them all

I was observing the 12Avatars contest with growing interest and some kind of admiration. The contest is over now, so I think I can write about it without people thinking that I'm promoting/criticising it. The contest caused lots of controversy around and lots of press/blogs coverage (both positive and negative). I'd like to stay neutral in this post, though I can't hide my fascination from business point of view (and I'll explain that later). They did their mistakes too, some of which were very basic ones but I'm not really going to point them out here, since they were noticed by the community anyway, and I like to focus on positive aspects :)

If you haven't heard of the contest yet (impossible?), here's some description from the contest notecard:
12Avatars is the first-ever printed calendar of Second Life's hottest avatars. With stunning women from cover to cover, it showcases the heights of virtual world beauty and fashion.

The 12Avatars calendar features an avatar-voted contest for selected slots on the calendar, as well as two real-world beauties who have been transformed into avatars.

Distributed for free in-world, and sold for a modest price in the real world, 100% of the proceeds will be divided between the avatars who sell the real calendars in-world and real world charities chosen by the calendar buyer.

The 12Avatars calendar is produced by a solid team that includes Apollo Interactive, America's Leading Interactive Agency, and Centric, Agency of Change, who are looking to encourage in-world commerce and cross-promotion in Second Life.
So basically, it's a beauty contest with good cause. There's also lots of advertising behind the scenes, which I'll tell you about later in this post. Some things I liked, some things I didn't, but this contest is a very good example of how a real life company should enter SL (excluding the mistakes of course).

I first heard about the contest soon after it launched, so as a curious avvie I decided to join and see what would happen. Those of you who know me, also know I'm more into intelect/creating/scripting contests, but on the other hand, what could be wrong about "stepping into the spotlight" every once in a while? :)

The first days were pretty calm. I went to the studio at Tellus, took some pictures and filled the entry notecard, as instructions said. I met other contestants there and loved the atmosphere - lots of support for each other and fashion advice involved (but I'm not going to bore you with that). I was waiting impatiently for the voting to begin (will I make it to the voting stage?).


Finally September 17th came, the people who made it to the second stage were announced. And that's about the time I understood what it's all about and how it's supposed to work. When I joined the contest, I thought they would choose up to 30 avatars, basing on their pixel beauty. Let's see.. We have 77 stands, each one with 8 contestants and 4 empty slots in the last stand, which gives 612 avatars chosen for the voting stage. Now that's crazy.


Even though the 4 corner sim (aka quad sim) strategy was used, the lag was just unbearable. Why? Everyone was bringing their friends to vote. The map was full of green dots, and getting from the landing point to my stand/booth took me about 30 minutes (with average speed of 1 step per 1 minute) :) I'd go as far as saying it was the most laggy place of SL at the time. But that's what it meant to be from the very beginning. Publicity. Very well thought publicity, thus my admiration for those marketing people. For relatively low cost (see list of prizes) lots of people heard about the companies, usually in a positive way. But it doesn't matter if they talk bad anyway - it's important they talk, right?

A huge number of avatars had its impact on the contest. It turned from 'beauty contest' to 'who-can-bring-most-friends contest' (yesss, publicity) or even 'who-can-pay-more-for-votes contest' - even though the companies were obviously against the latter and stated clearly it's against the rules. But with this huge number of people, you can't avoid the drama, can you? So September 17th is when all the craze began. Contestants were very creative in ways of discouraging others. I 'quit' because of the lag and didn't want to spam friends either, but stayed in the group for the news. I think the best way to describe what happened is to state things in chronological order:
  • The voting begins. Contestants are invited to the group "Monkeyface Woodget Fan Club", with a charter stating "This is the group to be in if you are entered in the 12avatars.com Contest."
  • Notices with voting instructions are sent out since people can't find their way in the lag. Sim Maps are placed on the back walls at the voting area.
  • A rumour is sent to the world that there are already people with 35 votes out there (few hours after opening) and there's no way to catch up with them.
  • Contestants start to ask voting area visitors to vote for them.
  • Contestants who run businesses start sending the voting propaganda to their update groups.
  • Notices are sent, asking contestants not to campaign on the voting sim with possible consequence of removing entrants who do so.
  • Don't-believe-the-hype notices are sent, so that the entrats don't believe rumours as "I heard that someone has gotten over 200 votes so far...".
  • Contestants start to occupy the voting sims with friends, so that others can't get in and vote. Hot discussion on the group chat.
  • Contestants start buying votes from random avatars. This is funny, since most of them forget that only 2 avatars will be chosen by votes - 8 will be companies' choice and 2 will be RL beauties converted into avatar form.
  • Notices are sent out, asking contestants not to pay for votes in any form ("money, products, or favors are all considered bribes") with possible consequence of removing entrants who do so.
  • A scandal breaks out (one day before the voting ends). Monkeyface Woodget disappears. He's not in the group anymore, and actually his avatar is deleted (or can't be found through Search).
CF: Anybody know what has happened to Monkeyface Woodget's account? I need to send him an IM, but search does not bring his name up ("None found" is the search result).
MH: probabl just search issues..can you pull him from group?
DB: gone with the wind?
DD: he isnt in group anymore?
EK: he's not in the group
EK: scam?
KM: Nope he's not
JH: ohhhhh shit
DD: nope.. not in group
SJ: lol
  • People start inquiring what happened. Comments on the group chat range from anger to laughter:
"Man... this is funny."
"maybe he was getting too many IMs"
"im not in panic"
"o well i didn t care about this contest anyway"
"that must be fun for those who paid for votes"
"what about all the time you all put in getting votes for a week on sl ding this contest"
"thats just weird"
"we were part of it! it will go into the SL records!"
"I met some wonderful people in the contest"
"dont jump to conclusions, i mean it could be a glitch of some sort"
"why this commotion about a stupid calandar?"
"lol...oh, I'm all in a panic...stop it"
"lol its just the prinicple of all this, like i thought it was for charity"
"anyone can do this with their friends......just take pics and use a printing press : )"
"everyone one of you, we've had this experience no matter the number. That in itself is awesome."
"Hey, I got a magazine possibility, an invite to superb networking event with loads of possibility, and tons of exposure. I no longer care if I make the calendar or not. Heh. I didn't to early in the game. lol"
"yeah i dont need it just thought it would be fun i am well know already"
"o it doenst matter if your pic is good or not , the only things that matters is to have friends"
"thats true, this type of contest is about votes, dont matter how good looking or not you are, what matters is the vote count"
"i'd suggest just waiting til tomorrow when the "winners" are to be announced and see what happen"
  • As the investigation goes, a new rumour is out:
"actually i have just remembered something .... i was talking to him the other day and he said he had a surprise for all of you, Maybe this is it!!!"
  • Following group IMs becomes very entertaining.
  • Same day, a few hours later, it turns out the whole scandal was just a SL glitch:
  • People in the group relax and get excited about the upcoming field trip to find Elvis :)
  • The news are soon confirmed by companies' associate, nice and informative, and by Monkeyface himself. Everyone gets back to the I-care-about-the-contest attitude.
  • The winners are announced: Babyhoney Bailey (Grand Prize Winner) with 403 votes and yolesa palen (Runner-Up Prize Winner) with 278 votes. 11179 Unique Total Votes, 3 avatars disqualified (though offering 15 minute lap dances for votes was kinda creative) and a party for the winner (another good move, though I couldn't attend).
  • A thank-you gift is given to all contestants. Very nice. We care about everyone, we love you, it's just we can't include everyone into the calendar.. But we hope the gift can sweeten a little the bitterness of not being included. It did :)
  • The avatars picked/"hand selected" by companies are announced 1 per day (sometimes more days). With the twelfth pick, the companies make a fun joke, which was so hilarious I need to paste the notice here:
The ultimate pick for the 12Avatars calendar--Ruthed Monkeyface! Yes, that's right! Monkeyface has decided to pursue his (now her) ambition to be the Most Important Avatar of Second Life, First Life, this universe, and any known or unknown alternate realities. Ruthed Monkeyface will be appearing on the cover featuring her famous poses such as Admiring Her 5 O'Clock Shadow, Crashing the Helicopter, How To Lose A Man in 5 Seconds, Famous Power-Mad Dictactors of Second Life. More at http://www.1avatar.com.
  • The notice included picture of Monkeyface as lovely (but tweaked a little) Ruth - we all look like her sometimes, don't we? I kinda like her looks, but my friends would always say "Oh no, the ugly Ayu again.." So I need to rebake :) Anyway, the real pick was announced shortly, before a new drama spreads out ;)
There was lots of emotions in this contest: anger, happiness, laughter, who knows, maybe tears too. All this is a lot for one beauty contest, isn't it? As I said before, I kinda admire these companies. The whole contest was a well thought and well carried out action. There were some things I didn't like about it, but from the business point of view, these companies did well. Their entry to SL is a textbook example of how real life businesses should enter: use a creative idea, become a part of the community, get people involved, bring SLerebrities, advertise (make it loud), tease (don't give away all the news at once), show your human side (joke/show people you are fun) and keep out the troublemakers. How simple, how complicated.

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