Get ready to draw pictures of the Colonel doing the Dew.
Advertising represents a huge slice of the social game revenue pie, and it looks like Zynga has discovered a new way to wring a few more bucks out of it. Ads in the hit doodler Draw Something were previously confined to conventional banners in the free version of the game, but now advertisers are paying Zynga to insert branded words into both the free and paid editions of the game. The National Hockey League was at the vanguard of the charge, buying hockey-related words like "puck," "Zamboni," "hat trick," "slap shot" and "Leafs suck" [I may have made that one up] and even posting some of the results on Pinterest.
Dan Porter, formerly the CEO of Draw Something studio OMGPop who now serves as vice-president of mobile and general manager of Zynga's New York office, said tests of recognizable brands in the game led to the idea. "People loved to draw the Colonel and bags of Doritos," he told Ad Age.
The push to find new ad models like this one is being driven in large part by declining prices of conventional mobile advertising, which is itself the result of the explosive growth of the worldwide smartphone market. But while the insertion of sponsored words into the Draw Something lexicon is insidiously clever, it may have come at the wrong time: Little more than a month after Zynga announced its acquisition of OMGPop for roughly $180 million, the BBC revealed that Draw Something's daily active user count had dropped from 14.3 million to 10.4 million in just 30 days.