Corporate Eye

The Second Life of Social Game Advertising

farmvilleRemember when having a brand presence on Second Life was the “it” thing for companies and marketers?  Well, the concept of marketing through social games is far from dead.  Today, the increased focus on brand advertising in social games like Zynga‘s Farmville has become the new “it” marketing tactic.  Companies like Zynga and Playdom offer social games through multiple sites and devices such as Facebook, MySpace, iPhones, Androids, and more.

According to a report by eMarketer, it is predicted that marketers will spend $220 million on worldwide advertising in social games in 2010.  That number is expected to rise to $293 million by 2011 — a 60% increase over the $183 million spent on advertising in social games in 2009.  Keep in mind, the eMarketer investment predictions don’t include mobile aspects of social games, so the advertising dollars spent will actually be even higher!

Given the broad audience of social game users (who doesn’t know someone on Facebook who plays Farmville or Mafia Wars from Zynga?), there is certainly huge potential for advertising in social games.  The challenge will be finding the types of ads that actually drive consumers to action rather than cluttering their enjoyment of the games they’re playing.  Obviously, ads in social games need to add value to the user experience rather than simply interrupting those players’ experiences.

Another question relates to the longevity of these social games.  How long will people continue to play them before they’re lured to the next online or social fad?  It’s probably safe to assume that the lessons marketers learn from placing ads in social games won’t be for naught.  Surely those learnings will be applicable to future marketing initiatives, so testing the waters and experimenting with messages and tactics in today’s popular social games hold value.  The question is which types of products and brands will fare the best through advertising in social games.  I’m looking forward to watching the statistics and analyses that comes from these efforts.

What do you think of brand advertising in social games?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.