EXCLUSIVE: How DreamWorks Animation Is Using Social Gaming to Boost 'Megamind'

Zynga

The studio has partnered with Zynga for a 24-hour campaign that will integrate the movie's title character into its most popular game, FarmVille

NEW YORK -- Zynga and DreamWorks Animation have partnered on what is the largest social gaming firm's first-ever feature film integration -- a 24-hour campaign designed to boost awareness of the Friday release of Megamind.

Some might call it the digital age's version of the Thursday primetime TV spot for the latest movie release.

Seeking to leverage Zynga's reach, DWA will integrate Megamind into Zynga's most popular game FarmVille, which boasts 17 million daily and 56 million monthly active users worldwide. Zynga's games are available on such social networks as Facebook and MySpace.

"FarmVille's extraordinary reach in the social media and gaming space is unparalleled, and we are thrilled to work with Zynga to bring Megamind into their online world," said Anne Globe, head of worldwide marketing for DWA.

On Thursday, Megamind will launch his own Mega-Farm, a themed landmark within the social game that incorporates the storyline and characters of the film.

For 24 hours, users can see special branded content from the film, such as a Megamind contraption. Two special items will be available to players who visit the character's farm -- a special Mega-Grow formula that helps to instantly grow crops without wilting plus a collectable decorative item that players can put up in their own farms.

"We are always looking for new ways to connect with movie fans, and the biggest shift in marketing mix has been that more dollars nowadays go online," Globe said. "FarmVille is huge, and the comedic nature of the film lends itself to the fun of the game play."

Globe said her team will look at such metrics as awareness levels, online chatter (via Twitter and the like) and a possible spike in ticket sales to evaluate the success of the FarmVille campaign. If it works well, "we certainly would want to do more" with future movie or DVD releases.

Players can purchase tickets to go see the movie directly from FarmVille, which helps the companies track the campaign's success.

The short-term focus of the movie promotion lends it urgency and excitement, but there may be the opportunity for keeping fans engaged with key DWA film or TV characters longer term, she said.

Zynga late last year ran a weeklong campaign with Universal Studios Home Entertainment in social game Mafia Wars in support of the Blu-ray and DVD release of Public Enemies.

Zynga also has done FarmVille integrations with the likes of McDonald's and Farmers Insurance.

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Said Manny Anekal, global director of brand advertising at Zynga: "We're excited to bring one of the most highly anticipated films of the year to FarmVille and create a unique entertainment experience for FarmVille players worldwide."

He said his firm is viewing such advertising partnerships, including with entertainment companies, as a big future opportunity, highlighting that both sides benefit when they're done right.

"Brands get a great return on investment and a highly engaging ad activation, because all interactions are based on players' motivation," he said. "And for us, it's all about the players and bringing them enhanced game play."

Given early success in raising brand awareness and purchase intent in campaigns, he predicted that Zynga "will be a premiere and unique destination" for movie marketers.

The Farmers Insurance campaign saw 6 million-plus users engaged over a week and a 15,000-100,000 increase in fans on Facebook, according to the company.

CEO Mark Pincus founded Zynga, named after his late bulldog Zinga with a nod to an African warrior queen, in 2007. Its other games include Zynga Poker, Cafe World, YoVille, PetVille and Treasure Isle.

The private firm's investors include Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm of Netscape and Ning co-founder Marc Andreessen; venture giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; former AOL and AOL Time Warner top executive Bob Pittman's the Pilot Group; and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

San Francisco-based Zynga's games are free, but the company reportedly has been profitable since shortly after launching. It makes money when users pay for virtual goods, such as accessories, that allow them to add items inside a game, move up in it or to give friends gifts.

DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was recently quoted as saying that if he had to start all over again, he would want to be Pincus, because he created the next killer app.

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