Four Types of Advertising Are Emerging in Social Games, EA Says

As it turns out, Electronic Arts’ most popular game on Facebook, The Sims Social, is a perfect candidate for in-game advertising.

“It lends itself well with brands,” said Dave Madden, EA’s SVP of global media solutions. “Across The Sims Social, there’s nutrition, hygiene and careers.”

After all, it’s much harder to work a bottle of shampoo into a game that’s set in the forest or at a poker table. But when a game is about sleeping, eating microwave dinners or taking showers, that sort of product placement becomes much easier.

That’s how Unilever got interested.

In January, the massive consumer brands company — known for being the second-largest advertiser in the world — kicked off a multimillion dollar, year-long advertising campaign with EA.

It started with providing a virtual Dove Hair Spa in the Sims’ bathroom, where people’s avatars shampooed using the “Care & Repair with Dove Hair Therapy shower.” Upcoming Unilever products will include ice cream brands for the spring and summer, such as the new Magnum Mini ice cream bars, Yosicle ice pops, Cornetto ice cream cones and Heartbrand ice cream.

Because the advertisements offer virtual goods for free, players don’t typically mind interacting with the product placements. The Sims Social offers a fairly large global audience, attracting roughly three million daily users and 17.2 million monthly active users to make it one of the top 15 games on Facebook, according to AppData.

While advertising in social games by Electronic Arts or other big publishers like Zynga isn’t new, Madden said it is becoming more routine.

“Everyone knows the audience is there, and that they are spending a lot of time in the games, but from a media standpoint, it’s still been fairly new,” he said. “For a global company like Unilever to want to partner with EA and launch a campaign globally, it’s an indication that gaming is finding a stage.”

To accommodate the interest, Madden said they’ve created a rate card, developed four types of in-game advertising features, and have determined a calendar for how much integration work the developers can handle.

Here are the four advertising types that EA has focused on:

  1. Traffic Drivers: Typically, these ads drive players in the game to visit a brand’s Facebook page, where they can download a free in-game virtual good. In a two-week period, more than one million players from The Sims redeemed the Dove Hair Spa virtual items in their games, and 50 percent of the players chose to “Like” the brand on their own accord.
  2. Quests: These are the deepest and most involved. Players will have to take a number of steps inside the game to earn a valuable item at the end. For instance, Toyota launched a quest where players earned a Prius.
  3. Store Tabs: In the virtual goods store, there will be a whole tab dedicated to the brand. Unilever, which plans to do all four types of advertising, plans to roll out a Dove tab, where users will see five items related to vanity and hair care.
  4. Media Integrations: Users can watch a short video advertisement or other type of media, to unlock a virtual good.
Madden said EA’s calendar is currently booked for 10 to 11 months out of the year. Other brands that have appeared in The Sims Social are Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s and Toyota. The partnership with Unilever, which is being announced by Madden today at Ad:tech, is also cross-platform, meaning that its brands may also show up in mobile and console games.

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