Zynga, the publisher of Facebook games FarmVille and Mafia Wars, has hooked up with engagement ad network SocialVibe to run simple in-game placements offering rewards, such as Farm Cash to help a virtual tractor in FarmVille for creating brand-related tasks.
The engagement offer would appear as a simple message at the bottom of the screen. Earning the currency could require watching a video, say, or filling out a survey. Zynga charges brands on initiated interactions. The price per engagement averages about $1.
“We have a product that allows brand marketers to have their own custom engagement,” said Michael Comerford, a former Google sales exec who’s leading Zynga’s ad efforts. “I like to call this opportunity ‘on-game’ advertising as opposed to ‘in-game’ advertising.”
Zynga has made some missteps in building out its marketing business. The company came under fire last fall for its direct-marketing offers program that invites users to earn virtual currency in exchange for taking an offer like a movie rental subscription. Some of the offers were of dubious value, prompting Web site TechCrunch to dub it “Scamville.”
The company, which maintained that the offers are a small part of its business, put a temporary hold on them. It has subsequently returned to them but believes it will be a small part of its ad business, according to Comerford, who added that Zynga has raised the quality of the offers.
Pro Flowers, for example, is running a Mother’s Day promo that lets Farmville users earn virtual cash if they accept an offer to send real flowers. The problem with such programs is that people are likely to only sign up for an offer or two. With brand engagements, players can earn virtual currency daily.
“The opportunity is orders of magnitude larger in the brand space than the direct-response space,” said Comerford.
The challenge for Zynga is weaving brands into the game experience. It’s had some experience with this. Last December, for instance, the company worked with Universal Studios Home Entertainment to promote the DVD release of Public Enemies in Mafia Wars. The weeklong program, brokered for Zynga by Appssavvy, drew 55 million brand interactions.