Zynga is starting to broaden its advertising base while finding creative ways to integrate brands into games that don't necessarily seem to be natural fits for ads.
On Wednesday (Feb.16), the San Francisco-based social gaming juggernaut will roll out its first ad campaign in Treasure Isle. Though mobile phones are not a big part of the game's hunting for buried treasure motif, T-Mobile is using Treasure Isle to tout its 4G speed.
To do so Zynga's ad team—in conjunction with appssavvy—has built a custom mission for Treasure Isle players themed around speed. The prize for completing the mission is 25 fire shovels—virtual goods that promise to help players complete upcoming tasks much faster—as well as gold coins, the game's currency. Plus, part of the mission involves virtually "calling" five friends to entice them to participate ("assemble your 4G Network").
"We've cracked another genre," said Manny Anekal, Zynga's global director of brand advertising. "This is our first ever telco advertiser. And this is a great example of us executing a campaign for a brand that is not necessarily an endemic."
The T-Mobile campaign is scheduled to run for 10 days, during which time a T-Mobile icon will persistently appear in the game. Over that time, T-Mobile should receive hefty exposure. According to Zynga officials, Treasure Isle is played by 2.5 million people a day and 12 million each month.
Overall, Zynga's games, which include the massively popular FarmVille and CityVille, are played by a staggering 275 million monthly users. Yet despite its massive audience, Zynga has moved cautiously into advertising.
One reason is that ad revenue didn't drive Zynga's estimated $400 million in profits last year. Virtual goods sales did. According to the Wall Street Journal, Zynga is looking to raise capital that could place its value somewhere between $7 billion and $9 billion.
To date, Zynga has run campaigns for several movies, including last year's animated Megamind and the current hit The Green Hornet. In addition, General Mills has featured branded blueberries in FarmVille, where Farmers Insurance Group also flew a virtual airship touting its brand.
But according to Anekal, philosophically Zynga is opposed to bombarding its gamers with interruptive ads. "It's all about users," he said. "Our ads are really content that enhance the game play."
Said Kindel Washington, T-Mobile's media marketing manager: "We felt the storytelling capabilities that Zynga's platform offers would give T-Mobile the opportunity to show gamers the speed and scale of our 4G network by adding value to their game play."
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