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Q&A: Chris Davis, SVP at Gaia Online

Chris Davis, SVP at Gaia Online, talks about how virtual worlds use digital advertising to reach consumers

Q: What’s most challenging for you in terms of marketing?

A: What we do is go way beyond the banner. It’s hard to communicate to buyers sometimes. In our case, it’s
fortunate that we’ve worked with so many Fortune 1,000 clients across a number of verticals, that our job is getting a little bit easier. However, it’s still a challenge to educate them about the benefits of having their brand represented in a space such as ours. That is probably our greatest challenge.

Q: What are some direct marketing tactics used by marketers on Gaia Online?

A: It really depends on the campaign’s objectives. Everything we do within our world is designed with the brand’s objectives in mind. So we start with the very basic traffic-driving initiatives, like banners and straight media units, and work from there. A certain company may want exposure through a basic profile page where members can learn about a product, click to a website, and purchase a video game, movie ticket or a DVD. We try to do all of that in a really fun and engaging environment. We find quirky things that get consumers engaged with the brand. The most integrated thing we do is create custom “flash bases,” virtual environments where consumers can interact with each other and the equity characters associated with the brand. 

Q: How have you recently helped marketers trying to reach consumers?

A: We ran a campaign on site for a clothing retailer. It had two objectives. We wanted to drive registrations [for the client’s offer] and increase awareness of the brand. Members were able to earn a discount on merchandise and earn free goods for participating in the offer we ran on Gaia – and we generated a ton of registrations. 

Q: What’s a favorite marketing strategy you’ve seen used?

A: I’m partial to our flash bases. They are so engaging. We run them all the time for big brands, but they are all unique. For example, for the film Alice in Wonderland, we gave members an opportunity to click on a rabbit hole, shrink their avatar, interact in Wonderland with Alice, and even earn a Mad Hatter hat as a virtual item. Consumers obviously covet these things. So we do things like that…They end up with literally hundreds of thousands of hours of fan appreciation, and members get something of value from these sponsorships, so they really enjoy participating in them.

Q: What are some direct marketing goals for 2011?

A: We will tackle whatever objective a brand or agency has. Honestly, our creativity is our only limitation. We have some exciting things in mind. 

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