Zynga is now gamifying ads with branded levels


FarmVille, sponsored by delicious Clorox

Zynga, the company that brought you FarmVille and droveDraw Something into the ground, has found a new way to force advertisements into its cancerous products: sponsored levels.

The evil corporate Mary Poppins’ new business strategy takes the spoonful of sugar approach, allowing users to play branded levels, rather than sit through lengthy promotional videos.

Clorox has already taken advantage of the new “Sponsored Play” initiative, creating a FarmVille: Harvest Swap level that tasks players with collecting ingredients for salad dressing while promoting its Hidden Valley Ranch® brand. Meanwhile, PepsiCo subsidiary Naked Juice has offered players in-game currency in exchange for harvesting fruit in sponsored levels and tweeting about it.

Sponsored Play was designed by a new internal group at Zynga to attract advertisers and help subsidize its suite of free-to-play games. Speaking with Ad Age, Zynga VP of Sales Julie Shumaker referred to the scheme as “product placement at scale,” while noting the plan’s insidious potential to build brand engagement with players by presenting it in the “native environment” of the game.

Zynga starts selling sponsored levels created by in-house agency [Advertising Age]