To promote the U.S. launch of its latest sport hybrid coupe, the Honda CR-Z, the company initiated a two-month advertising campaign in Car Town, a newly released Facebook game that allows players to use virtual currency to purchase, customize and store hundreds of vehicles in their own virtual garages. Players can then use these vehicles to take road trips and complete challenges to earn points to purchase additional vehicles and car-related products and services.
The game was launched by Cie Games on August 9.
During the two-month promotion period, clickable ads featuring a rendering of the Honda CR-Z will appear on all in-game billboards. These billboards are stationed next to player garages, where users begin every game session.
In addition, Honda will be one of the game’s “Featured Garages,” where users can watch the vehicle’s video commercial and purchase a Honda CR-Z for their own garages. The game version of the car is uniquely enabled to travel to both the beach and snow-covered environments simultaneously, highlighting the CR-Z’s sporty and fuel-efficient capabilities. The car will remain in the game even after the promotion period ends on October 23
The Value of Social Games Advertising
Advertisers are increasingly looking to social games to increase awareness and engagement with target consumers. In-game branded crops from Cascadian Farms and Elite Taami Nutz have appeared in Facebook game FarmVille, and Microsoft Bing increased the number of “Likes” on its Facebook Page by 400,000 in 24 hours during its FarmVille promotion.
Many big companies have already recognized the commercial potential of social gaming; Disney snatched up social game creator Playdom for more than $760 million in July, and Google acquired social application producer Slide and virtual currency company Jambool for an undisclosed amount earlier this month.
In addition, a recent study from NPD revealed that roughly 56 million Americans are playing social games, a tenth of whom have spent money on those games. Internet users bought around $2.2 billion worth of virtual goods in 2009 — a number that is expected to increase to $6 billion by 2013 — and advertisers are expected to spend $293 million in social games and applications in 2011, more than double what they spent in 2009, according to a study from EMarketer Inc.
This is the first time that Honda has advertised in a social media game, company spokesperson Jessica Fini informed us, although the auto manufacturer has advertised in console games like Gran Turismo andForza.
“We felt connecting with gamers are their point of passion — which, in the case of Car Town, is all about cars — would be a good way to reach the target CR-Z buyer, who is a 25-30-year-old male,” Fini said.
Steven Center, VP of national marketing operations for American Honda, observed that Car Town was a good fit because “participants can engage with and experience Honda in a fun and casual environment that’s not overtly commercial.”
The promotion has also helped spur enthusiasm for the game itself. Fini told us that Car Town has more than 3.5 million users as of Friday, more than double what it reported just a week earlier. That number is still a far cry from FarmVille userbase — which recently surpassed 65 million — but at that rate, it could very possibly catch up.
What do you think about advertising opportunities in social games? As a player, how do they affect your perceptions of a brand?