Zynga, the company that makes “Farmville” and “Words With Friends”, is now including in-game advertising. This new ad product is called Sponsored Play. It allows franchises to have their products featured in branded levels of existing Zynga games.
In short, it appears that the branded levels will feature a short, fun, game, based around the product that is sponsoring it. Clorox, the company that owns the brand Hidden Valley Ranch, is featured in one of the first Sponsored Play games. Their ad/game is called Farmville Harvest Swap. It is a match three type of puzzle game.
“Farmville Harvest Swap” can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play. In addition to puzzles, the ad/game includes “delightful story-driven progression”.
The true purpose of the game, however, is to enable Clorox to promote its Hidden Valley Ranch products. AdAge reports that the game includes a level where players harvest ingredients for a Hidden Valley Ranch recipe. After players complete the recipe, they are presented with a clickable link that connects to Hidden Valley Ranch’s recipe site.
One could reasonably conclude that more Sponsored Play content will appear in Zynga’s games in the future. Potentially, this could provide Zynga, whose games are free-to-play, with a new revenue stream.
Adults, of course, will be able identify games like “Farmville Harvest Swap” as an advertisement. Children, however, might not be able to differentiate between the Farmville game and the Farmville Sponsored Play advertisement. This brings up the sticky question of whether or not Zynga may be (perhaps unintentionally) directing ads at children. Parents need to be aware that Sponsored Play games could direct their child to websites that have nothing to do with Zynga’s games.