Social is the future of gaming. That what’s Stefan Pepe, the General Manager of Revenue at Zynga, believes wholeheartedly. He took part in the ad:tech keynote panel “Zynga, EA and Microsoft: Why to Budget for Ads in Games,” along with representatives from EA Games and Microsoft.
He has a point. Since Zynga was founded in 2007, social gaming has exploded, mostly because of its broad appeal. Among Zynga’s titles, users spend 2 billion minutes playing every day. The company boasts 68 million active users and Pepe claims this turns into 4 billion neighbor connections. With 14.5 million active daily users, Zynga’s CityVille is the leading application on Facebook. The top three include two other Zynga games.
Pepe went on to say advertising in social gaming requires creativity and engagement. Marketing campaigns must “add value” to the experience. Ads must enhance a user’s interaction with the game, not shove some brand down their eyeballs.
Rewards are astronomical for well-planned, engaging strategies. The most successful Zynga campaigns, including Best Buy and McDonald’s on CityVille and Dreyer’s on Farmville, all embraced the form. Many allowed users to actively choose brands and get rewarded in the game.
Pepe speculated that these companies’ success was due to the achievement users enjoyed because of the active engagement with brands. This encouraged interaction is totally different from billboards, television, online videos or banner ads. These companies offered rewards, sort of like “e-coupons,” that increased fun.
Because of the gaming elements of Zynga’s titles, the consumers dive much deeper into ads. And because of the social aspects, these ads reach many more people than just an individual setting up a fake Best Buy on CityVille.
The landscape is global and continues to expand. Each case presents strong evidence that social gaming is a boon for marketers.
Virtual Best Buy
For a week in September 2011, Zynga’s CityVille partnered with Best Buy. Users could set up a virtual Best Buy store and collect tech products (in the game) as well as branded decorative items, like a giant robot statue, by visiting Best Buy’s Facebook page. The short campaign was a resounding victory. The CityVille landscape was dotted with 7.9 million Best Buy stores. On top of that, 6.5 million users visited the company’s Facebook page. Not only could gamers build a virtual store, they could play a campaign earning experience and energy points. Allowing users to achieve something was key to Best Buy’s success, as well as letting them decorate their digital cities with “exclusive” items.
McDonald’s Provides Energy
McDonald has worked with Zynga over several platforms and in a couple of different ways. Back in 2010, FarmVille horticulturists could get a handy McDonald’s hot-air balloon by interacting with the McDonald’s company farm (which oddly featured no cattle). One of the most quantifiable successes was with CityVille, where the fast food titan gave players energy points for watching a McDonald’s ad. An amazing 95 percent completed the video, and the company enjoyed a 13 percent click-through rate.
Growing Fruit Bars
Apparently, sometimes success in social gaming requires getting pretty ridiculous. The Dreyer’s Fruit Bar campaign allowed FarmVille users to “plant” a crop of bright red frozen fruit bars. The wacky idea worked. Digital farmers planted 2.4 billion fruit bar seeds (hopefully, the campaign didn’t mess up how young gamers understand botany). It gave users a weird new crop to master, especially gaining the appreciation of those who had mastered every other crop. In this way, both Zynga and Dreyer’s profited.
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