When Ads Become Social Games: New Balance RUN-Dezvous

In today’s market, we see advertisements everywhere and on everything. Marketers are always looking for new, different, and effective ways to pitch their products to the right audience, but that begs the question: given the banner blindness that exists today on the web, what does it take to stand out amongst the crowd?

One engaging approach that’s been used in the past is the creation of games that revolve around a product or service (we’ve seen Burger King do it a couple of times all ready). Marketers attempt to make free, entertaining mini-games that interest as much of the population as possible in hopes to get click-through traffic to their website or purchases of their product. This is exactly what New Balance has done with their Zip running sneaker and the Facebook mini-game “New Balance RUN-Dezvous” by Buddy Media.

The game itself is nothing earth-shattering, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the gaming world, but it is an amusing mini-game meant to drive sales for New Balance shoes. The game itself plays a lot like the old-school, Nintendo title Paperboy. You’re out for a run, and you have to dodge things like falling plants, open man holes, street barricades, and so on. It actually looks pretty good too, utilizing an interesting, surreal style of art with a strange isometric point of view. Basically, you progress through the game by running forward and avoiding obstacles until you either finish all the levels or run out of lives.

In a nut-shell there is nothing wrong nor bad about the game, it’s just been done before, and it gets repetitive rather quickly. However, it does allow for a few minutes of amusement, which seems to be all it is really meant for. It does, nonetheless, gain some longevity due to integration with AceBucks, a Facebook loyalty program that lets you purchase everything from hair gel to iPods. Not only this, but there is also a challenge mode that helps to lengthen appeal as well.

As you may have guessed, RUN-Dezvous allows you to directly challenge others to races. However, unlike many Facebook games, you can challenge not only your friends, but other random players as well, thus greatly increasing the level of competition. Unfortunately, the races are not simultaneous. As with most Facebook games, the social aspect is turn based, but the one challenged can race at any time they please. Essentially it is a “race” to see who can get the highest score and/or the farthest in the game.

Sending challenges from a Facebook game is enough to make a game social to some degree. I will admit, I am competitive, and would probably accept such a thing and get a few minutes of satisfaction from it. However, with the popularity of social networks, the potential of social and multiplayer game play is so much greater. The current model of “beat your friend’s high score” does work, but I think it’s too conservative.

In the end, RUN-Dezvous is meant to be a short mini-game whose primary purpose is to drive traffic and thus sales for their Zip sneaker. With that in mind, they have done a decent job with their Facebook game. It looks clean, has an attractive style, it’s simple to learn and play, and provides excellent amusement, if only for a short while. Furthermore, they took the time to implement the capability of challenging other players rather than only your friends, and have included ways of earning AceBucks (considering how many you need to buy stuff, any way to earn more of these is useful).

RUN-Dezvous won’t change the face of social games, but for what it’s worth, the game is well done.