Despite isolated reports of corporate dissatisfaction with Second Life, the influx continues. Electric Sheep claims to be turning away business. IBM has set up a virtual worlds business unit. Millions of Us, which has also built corporate presences for Intel, Microsoft, Sun, and ? full disclosure ? Wired, is constructing a virtual Hollywood Hills for show business companies.

What's behind this stampede is not that hard to divine. "A terror has gripped corporate America," says Joseph Plummer, chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, an industry think tank. Plummer has been around Madison Avenue since the early '60s, when modern advertising techniques materialized. "The simple model they all grew up with" - the 30-second spot, delivered through the mass reach of television - "is no longer working. And there are two types of people out there: a small group that's experimenting thoughtfully, and a large group that's trying the next thing to come through the door." Second Life appeals to the latter ? the ones who are afraid of missing out, who don't consider half a million dollars to be a lot of money, and who haven't figured out (or don't want to admit) that Second Life is less than the bold new frontier it appears to be.

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