Thursday, 4 January 2007

Virtual Earths: A New Opportunity for Brands?

We should all be keeping our eyes on the development of Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth (pictured above) in 2007 as the two giants go head-to-head in a race to virtualise the planet.

Microsoft are currently investing millions in order to compete with Google. The company recently launched Virtual Earth 3D and users have been swift to praise its superior level of detail.

Virtual earths will allow us all to tour the sites of the world from the comfort of our own homes. Some are forecasting that discovering the world virtually will become a more popular family activity than watching television. On Google Earth, users can already sight-see in New York. They will soon be able to fly to the moon or see what life is like on Mars following a planned collaboration with NASA. Microsoft want to have added 100 new cities to theirVirtual Earth 3D by the summer.

The two companies are approaching the design of their virtual earths in very different ways. Microsoft have chosen to go for a top-down approach, ploughing huge sums of money into photographing the world. Google on the other hand are relying on the internet community to help them expand their world, developing software called ‘Sketch-Up’ which allows users to generate their own 3D images.

Brands are already recognising the potential for advertising within these virtual earths. Google Earth and British Airways have entered into a partnership which will allow tourists to view popular destinations and check the proximity to their chosen hotels before they travel. Whirlpool has introduced its products to Google Earth’s 3D Warehouse using Sketch-Up and commentators are predicting that in the future we will be able to purchase in real life the appliances we have drawn into our virtual homes. Meanwhile, an online banner ad for the GM Saturn Aura will catapult browsers to their nearest Saturn dealership on Microsoft Virtual Earth. Nissan and Fox also plan to utilise this new advertising space in the future.

And the latest on gaming on Google Earth...Intel have designed a game called Mars Sucks. Read more about it here:

Find more photos of Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth at


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