Zynga's FrontierVille Gets Product Placement From Paramount Picture's "Rango"

The latest product placement in one of Zynga’s Facebook games comes from the upcoming animated feature “Rango,” featuring the voice of Johnny Depp.

The week-long campaign will appear in Zynga’s popular FrontierVille, and is part of the company’s efforts to build up additional sources of revenue beyond relying on the few users who elect to pay for virtual goods.

“Rango,” which debuts in theaters on Friday, is about a chameleon who must save the day in a Western-themed town, much like the atmosphere depicted in FrontierVille.

The placement is being conducted through a partnership between the San Francisco-based social games developer Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies.

Starting this afternoon, the 15 million daily players of FrontierVille will be presented with three Rango-related tasks, if they choose to participate.

Players must find the chameleon, who easily blends into the frontier. Then, they must get their friends to send them 10 buckets of water, and finally they must watch the film’s trailer in advance of the film’s release. If players do all three, they receive a Rango statue to add to their homestead.

The product placement is more overt than some of the ones in the past. It also doesn’t offer much value. For instance, the statue has no secret powers, and will not bring crops back to life, like the Farmers Insurance blimp did last year in FarmVille.

In an interview, Manny Anekal, global director of brand advertising at Zynga, told us that’s not the appeal of the statue. “They are collection-ists and completion-ists, but they also like getting things that are unique, and you can’t buy it,” he said.

For Paramount, he said they’ll be watching the number of people who participate and how much awareness of the brand it creates.

Some critics question whether Zynga’s strategy of doing one-off product placements will be able to scale and be come a large enough business since each offer is so specialized, and the company must work so closely with the advertiser to come up with an appropriate ad campaign.

Anekal said it’s a work in progress. They’ve only had a dozen or so product placements since the second half of last year. “In terms of what we can scale. We are working towards that. We are nascent in the space.”

Zynga has worked to promote two other movies: Sony Pictures Entertainment’s The Green Hornet in Mafia Wars and DreamWorks Animations’ Megamind in FarmVille. The DreamWorks promotion attracted more than nine million people to interact with Megamind’s “Mega-Farm” in the 24-hour period.

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