Paramount to Promote Animated Feature Film Rango with Zynga FrontierVille Tie-In

While movie studios used to focus family film promotion tie-ins in physical objects like the toys offered with fast food meals, they’re increasingly using social games as a way to raise awareness. The latest example is a partnership between Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Zynga to bring the new animated film Rango to FrontierVille for a week leading up to the film’s release.

From today until Mach 6th, gamers will search for chameleon Rango, ask friends for virtual goods needed to complete a branded quest, be shown the film’s trailer, and win a special virtual good. Exposure to FrontierVille’s 19.4 million monthly active users with the film’s content and main character should increase buzz and box office revenues.

Zynga previously partnered with Paramount to promote the release of the DreamWorks animated film MegaMind within FarmVille. That one-day promotion in November 2010 engaged nine million users and saw four million messages about the branded content sent by gamers to their friends, leading Paramount to seek the Rango deal. Another partnership with Universal Studios engaged 19 million Mafia Wars users over one week to promote the DVD release of crime drama Public Enemies.

Social games are emerging as a powerful vehicle for brand promotion and a significant revenue stream for developers, as we previously detailed in our article “How Brands Can Advertise Within Social Games“. While television or print advertising can get branded content in front of potential customers for a few seconds, social game audiences can be engaged with promotions for minutes or hours. Their large, interconnected audiences are a great way to seed word of mouth.

Developers have to choose their partnerships wisely, though. Diverting a production team who could be creating high-return virtual goods or new game mechanics can be costly, so developers must only accept deals where they can charge a high initial production fee and high price per engaged user. They also must ensure the promotion fits naturally within the game, or risk turning off their users. The financial details of the Rango deal have not been disclosed, though Zynga says branded promotions typically take a month to plan and build.

FrontierVille was a hit upon its release in June, with Zynga successfully cross-promoting the game on its other properties to reach a daily active user count peak of 8.9 million, according to AppData. However, since the December 1st release of CityVille, the most popular Facebook game ever, FrontierVille has slipped from 6.8 million to 5.2 million DAU to become #6 in terms of both DAU and MAU. That’s still a plentiful audience for Paramount and Nickelodeon, though.

The in-game promotion is set up as a branded quest. Users first locate Rango on the frontier, who informs them they need to save their settlement from drought, similar to the plot of the film. Users must then collect ten water buckets by sending requests to friends who also play FrontierVille. If they succeed, they are shown a trailer for the film and awarded a gold Rango statue they can display on their frontier. Since the film is set on the frontier, the promotion is a good fit and will feel like a relatively natural extension of the game.

Zynga’s Global Director of Brand Advertising Manny Anekal tells us that FrontierVille gamers are “collectors and completionists” who strive to attain all the game’s virtual goods. By offering a limited edition virtual good that can’t be otherwise won or purchased, they’ll feel compelled to complete the Rango quest. Anekal says Zynga is open to doing more promotions for films and other brands as long as they enhance gameplay.

Strategies for which social games fit with what types of brands, details on social game marketing deals including price points of startup fees and cost per engagement, and a case study of a campaign promoting Disney’s film Tron: Legacy within Booyah’s social game Nightclub City are available in the Facebook Marketing Bible, the comprehensive guide to marketing your brand, company, or app with Facebook.