Young people are increasingly logging on to online virtual worlds, yet internet marketing teams have so far failed to take advantage of the opportunities they present.

This is the conclusion of a new study by eMarketer, which shows that 37 per cent of youngsters in the US who use the internet visit virtual worlds at least once a month.

By 2013, this figure is expected to rise to 54 per cent, suggesting that companies taking advantage of this growing trend now will be in a position to benefit from increased audiences in the years ahead.

Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer, said that as with social networking sites, internet marketing on virtual worlds "has not kept pace with usage".

"Advertising in virtual worlds gives marketers new insights into how consumers perceive and interact with their brands," she remarked.

The popular virtual world Second Life recently reported that its users spent 124 million hours on its site in the first quarter of this year, up 42 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2008.

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