Product placement has long been a part of games as an alternative method of income to game distributors. (We’ve written about Dunkin Donuts in Sims Social). In my humble opinion, no one is nailing product placement in social network games as EA is doing in SimCity Social, which you can play on Facebook. Unlike virtual goods in other games in which the goods are not very desirable, the “buildings” that one can place in SimCity Social actually have very nice decorative value as well as potential revenue value. They are tied in with quests, and the buildings are usually upgradable.
The latest product placement is Progressive- one needs to build a “service center” that generates materials. The building design is pretty funky and although the center itself doesn’t generate very many materials, completing the mission yields ample rewards. A lost opportunity from Progressive’s perspective was that the character Flo, who appears in the company’s TV ads, was not the one deliver the mission. Too bad.
The concept of building a factory really goes hand in hand with heavy industries. Mercedes-Benz also did a product placement that involved building a beautiful factory, putting up a Mercedes-Benz billboard. The mission was to build new cars. I don’t know how consistent the information was to their actual production, but the “upgrades” to the buildings included adding smartphone docking stations- if these upgrades are actually a part of their new line, this mission also provided a lot of information about their cars, especially for someone like me who wasn’t interested in Mercedes-Benz.
Another example was Century21, which had a very cute building, and was really appropriate because the company is a real estate firm. Here is an interview with Century21 CMO Bev Thorne featured in Forbes regarding the SimCity Social product placement and a blog post from the company.
Then, of course, there’s Dunkin’ Donuts, which already has a track record of doing product placements in social network games. Dunkin Donuts had several pink-colored “decorations” which help boost your city’s population, as well as a donut store. You can see here that I placed these together with other pink buildings. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete the quest and get the ultimate coffee decoration. Did this product placement make me go to Dunkin’ Donuts? No, perhaps because there is no Dunkin’ Donuts nearby, but it did make me want to eat donuts. Yum. Stephen Totilo argues that the Dunkin product placement was the “most effective ad ever in a video game.” I would somewhat agree!