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When Zynga shelled out $200m for OMGPOP, the maker of Draw Something, the social gaming giant was buying what was, at the time, the owner of the hottest mobile game in the world.

But despite its popularity and the fact that it was generating hundreds of thousands of dollars each day in revenue, the steep price Zynga paid for a company that was once on the brink of failure naturally raised questions about whether it overpaid.

Those questions remain, particularly in light of figures which make it look as if Zynga may have purchased OMGPOP at the height of Draw Something's popularity. But Zynga has a plan for Draw Something and, perhaps not surprisingly, it involves brands.

As detailed by AdAge, the company that has turned virtual goods in iconic social games like Farmville into a multi-billion dollar business is now "inserting advertisers' paid terms into the game for players to literally draw brands".

One of the first advertisers getting involved with Draw Something is the National Hockey League, which, according to AdAge, has been buying up hockey-related terms. The league is then posting some of the pictures Draw Something users are producing on its Pinterest pages.

OMGPOP's CEO Dan Porter, who is now a VP and GM at Zynga, said that the brand initiative was developed after the company experimented with brand-related terms. "People loved to draw the Colonel and bags of Doritos," he told AdAge.

Obviously, the prospective of inserting your brand into one of the most popular mobile games ever is an appealing proposition for brand marketers, even if the ROI calculus is hard to produce.

But there is risk. Just how far out Zynga will be able to extend Draw Something's popularity remains to be seen, and by injecting advertising into the Draw Something experience, it's possible that Zynga will alienate some users, hastening the game's seemingly inevitable decline.

What is clear is that advertisers are clearly willing to experiment with more integrated advertising initiatives in mobile games, something that is good news for Zynga and the growing number of companies setting their sights on mobile gaming riches.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 May, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)

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John Nikolakis

I don't think that's a very smart move by Zynga, unless they are going to serve the "branded" words only to specific countries/markets.

For example hockey is popular in US and Canada but I don't believe many people know much about it in Europe.

about 4 years ago

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BikeRunYoga

This seems similar to ad placement in tv shows or movies where companies pay to have their products/logos put in front of the viewer. I like this idea much better than interrupting the viewing experience or in Draw Something, the drawing experience for a "commercial". People can choose the ad words or choose one of the other words, or I suppose they could use a bomb and get new words.

As long as I don't have to draw snookie or some other terrible reality tv star I'm good.

about 4 years ago

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Draw Something losing popularity

I have to say that the appeal just isn't as timeless as some other games I've experienced. My guesstimate is that it has something to do with the effort it takes to draw a good painting and concentration required to guess some odd sketches done by friends. Whereas in wordfeud a turn only takes 20 seconds at most.

about 4 years ago

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