LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Farmville is going Hollywood. As the Zynga web property begins to establish itself as an emerging mass-reach ad platform for advertisers such as McDonald's, 7-Eleven and General Mills, the popular social-media app is integrating Paramount DreamWorks Animation's "MegaMind" as its first film partner.
For 24 hours -- starting tonight at midnight to promote the film's Friday release -- Farmville users will be able to interact with a virtual Mega-Farm, hosted by the film's title character, and even purchase a ticket to see the film directly from the FarmVille world.
Anne Globe, DreamWorks' head of worldwide marketing, said the promotion was a good creative fit for the film's plot but also an efficient place to reach a wide audience, given FarmVille's 16 million daily active users and 56 million monthly users.
In the movie, MegaMind (voiced by Will Ferrell) is looking for new things to conquer after defeating his nemesis, the hero MetroMan (Brad Pitt). So having him conquer the web's biggest social-media game made sense to DreamWorks Animation.
"Being able to create a first-of-its-kind campaign in Farmville where 'Megamind' himself really is your neighbor and have the opportunity to create his own farm in Farmville we think is a a very innovative way to engage viewers," Ms. Globe said.
It's also the latest move by DreamWorks, much like studio sibling Paramount just did with "Paranormal Activity 2," to shift more of its marketing strategy and budget online to drive awareness and engagement before the release of major films. Ms. Globe said DreamWorks now spends about 10% of its budget online, and is also experimenting with Twitter's Promoted Tweets platform for "MegaMind." Other marketing partners for the film include McDonald's, Airheads, Chase Bank and THQ, which created a "MegaMind"-branded video game.
"Since September, we've been experimenting with Twitter on an ongoing basis. It's all kind of a new frontier and an exciting time to be looking at these opportunities and analyzing how the timing works. The connection here will be immediate because we'll be able to see hopefully a spike in chatter in people who've engaged in the Farmville initiative as well," Ms. Globe said.
There's also recent precedent for "MegaMind" to find a large number of digital farmers in a limited time. A recent integration promotion for Farmers Insurance, for example, was engaged by more than 6 million users in one week, and boosted the brand's Facebook page from 15,000 fans to over 100,000. General Mills' campaign for Cascadian Farms interacted with more than 3 million unique users, with more than 500 million branded crops planted and results posted in more than 1 million Facebook news feeds. A sibling Zynga site, Mafia Wars, also hosted a campaign for the home video release Universal Pictures' "Public Enemies" last spring that saw 19 million users complete 45 million tasks for branded loot. More than 8 million status messages were posted as well during the one-week campaign.
It's those short campaign windows and organic impressions that have thus far prevented FarmVille from facing any mass user outcry of being overly marketed to in the virtual world.
"There's no IAB or online units or pre-roll ads, all the activations are customized to each brand, and it's all based on user's choice," said Manny Anekal, global director-brand advertising at Zynga. "By no means is the user forced into any sort of advertising if they don't wish to engage with it."