Branding and product placement in one of the world's biggest social games

By Max Willey

Branding in games is powerful. It’s even more powerful when done properly. Farmville, one of the world’s largest social games, had nearly 84 million monthly active users at its peak, making it hugely attractive in advertising potential. BVA BDRC investigated a collaboration between Farmville and McDonald’s, one of the world’s biggest brands.

BVA BDRC’s researchers investigated social media posts utilising three search terms relating to Farmville and McDonalds, generating 1,696 posts as a result. These posts revealed that McDonalds advertising campaign had some issues, with many stating they were unsure what the promotion was offering them and how they could engage with it. Others felt McDonalds had not immersed themselves enough in Farmville to understand the needs of players. Overall, however, the reaction was positive with players praising the sense of achievement they felt completing the challenge linked to the campaign.

The study showed that players do not object to branding itself in games – in fact, most of the criticisms were from players who were keen to engage but found themselves unable to. It is important that marketers play the game, understand it, and get into it and if possible link the brand with a real and significant benefit, reward or achievement if they want to fully realise the advertising potential for large, social games.