Zynga Grows One Thing Advertisers Want: Mass Reach
Farmville Creator Has 250 Million People Playing Its Games -- and Interacting With Marketers' Ads
Zynga, the gaming giant behind time-sucking Facebook phenomena such as Farmville, Mafia Wars and Frontierville, is building a media giant out of tiny transactions from millions of people buying seeds, sheep, tractors, weapons, skill points and other virtual goods.
The company has a tortured history with advertising, and -- like Facebook -- was once known for low-rent lead-generation ads such as the IQ test and Video Professor. But over the past year, the company has perfected a different kind of advertising that appeals to brands: ads that pay consumers for their attention.
The network behind Zynga's ads -- SVNetwork -- started out as a company that marketed charitable causes through its website, Social Vibe. But over the course of the past year it has integrated that system into Zynga's stable of games which are operated as separate businesses, allowing marketers to buy "engagement ads." All of those ads follow a pretty simple formula: ask a player if they'd like to earn some currency or points to do something like watch a movie trailer, play a game, quiz or some other brand-related activity, and then share it on Facebook...