Leo Burnett Worldwide is hoping that setting up shop in a virtual world can improve its real-world results.  The iconic Chicago agency -- which has absorbed the losses of
long-held, major accounts such as Cadillac and the U.S. Army of late --
is opening an "ideas hub" within Second Life, a virtual,
three-dimensional, internet-based alternate reality "inhabited" by
nearly 800,000 people worldwide.

Second Life in recent years has also been attracting a growing number
of marketers, such as ESPN, Adidas and American Apparel, that hawk
virtual wares and host brand-boosting events there. But Burnett claims
it's the first ad agency to buy "real estate" within the construct.

Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel said the shop's presence
within the virtual world would break down geographical barriers to
collaboration between his network's 2,400 creatives. "I don't want
brands shackled by geography," Mr. Tutssel said. "It lets all of our
creatives live in the same place."

Burnett bought 16 virtual acres, which are currently inhabited
by little other than a tree growing the agency's signature apples and a
coming-soon sign. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the Second
Life website lists 16-acre "islands" for $1,250, plus a monthly
"maintenance fee" of $195.

Virtual representations
Created by San Francisco-based Linden
Labs, Second Life lets people create virtual representations of
themselves that interact with others, swap ideas and even virtual
property.

Mr. Tutssel said a secondary benefit of Burnett's presence
will be an opportunity to interact with the thousands of consumers who
reside in the alternate universe. But he stressed that no in-progress
work for current Burnett clients would be viewable there.

ON: The Leo’s Virtual Alternative via @jpenabickley