Furries need not apply
In what seems like ages ago, in June 2006, Harvard Business Review made a huge splash by running a piece on avatar-based marketing (there was even an in-world panel): "The avatar, though, arguably represents a distinctly different “shadow” consumer, one able to influence its creator’s purchase of real-world products and conceivably make its own real-world purchases in the virtual world. At the least, it may offer insights into its creator’s hidden tastes."
Just as I thought everyone's mostly forgotten about Second Life by now, I found this study by two Boston College researchers who recently published a paper on the effectiveness of avatar spokespeople. Their conclusion: "The participants perceive human-like spokes-avatars as more attractive, and players who interact with a human-like spokes-avatar perceive the iPhone advertisement as more informative than those who interact with a non-human spokes-avatar."
The entire Journal of Interactive Advertising is full of cool topics like this; too bad all their stuff is written in that kind of language that takes hours for us layfolk to decipher.