Zynga has introduced a new form of in-game advertising that will see new levels created on behalf of advertisers.
Entitled Sponsored Play, the new programme inserts branded levels into some of the casual games firm’s most popular games that are themed around the sponsor’s products, according to Ad Age.
The first example is the Hidden Valley Ranch level in FarmVille: Harvest Swap, which is sponsored by Clorox. The level sees players harvesting ingredients that are used in the sauce’s recipe, and offers a link to Clorox’s website once completed.
Advertisers are charged every time a player engages with their level, and there is also the option to reward consumers that interact with the ad. For example, Naked Juice offers Harvest Swap players in-game currency if they tweet an image of their character holding a branded piece of fruit.
Zynga claims the new ads have resulted in double-digit increases in the number of people playing sponsored levels compared to those watching video ads. Players engaging with branded levels tend to do so for an average of 15 to 25 seconds.
“When we think of Sponsored Play, it really is product placement at scale,” said Julie Shumaker, VP of sales at Zynga. “It’s the mechanism by which our great game designers can now focus on brand KPIs within a native environment of the game to build engagement experiences specifically on behalf of the brand that reward the player.”
Zynga has had a troubled couple of years, with the transition to mobile proving to be more difficult than the casual games firm expected. Earlier this year, the firm's CEO Don Mattrick departed and was replaced by the original co-founder Mark Pincus.
We interviewed the firm about their plans to get their once-leading games portfolio back on track.