Zynga Ropes in Rango

Paramount Pictures is heading to the virtual frontier to promote the upcoming Johnny Depp-starring animated film Rango.

On Monday (Feb. 28) Zynga will roll out a Rango-branded quest within the social game FrontierVille. The Western pioneer-themed title’s 5 million-plus players will be tasked with finding the Rango character slightly confused chameleon somewhere in the game. They’ll then be urged to request virtual water buckets from 10 friends on Facebook, as Paramount looks to spread word of the quest and movie virally.

Lastly, in a first for Zynga, to complete the quest users will be required to watch the Rango trailer. Upon completion, they’ll receive a virtual Rango statue to display on their personal frontiers.

The deal with Paramount marks the second such integration with Zynga; last year the studio used FarmVille to promote the animated comedy Megamind. Rango, which takes place in an Old West-like town, is an obvious fit with FrontierVille. But this campaign is notable for several other reasons.

Though Rango, which opens on March 4, is rated PG, it appears aimed at kids and tweens; Zynga does not allow anyone below the age of 13 to play its games. “Paramount is targeting a family audience and this is a family-based game,” said Manny Anekal, Zynga’s global director of brand advertising.

Plus, this campaign is perhaps Zynga’s most aggressive use of video—obviously a popular outlet for brands—and its most interruptive messaging strategy. Until now Zynga has emphasized that its ad campaigns must provide value to its individual games—and it’s questionable whether making players watch a movie trailer qualifies as such. “It’s all about the user,” said Anekal. “You don’t want to distract users from a great experience. We’ve created two great tasks for our players, and this trailer gives them an opportunity for a 30-second break. But of course we’ll continue to monitor the feedback.”

Regardless of the tactics, it appears that Zynga is quickly becoming a staple for movie brands. Besides Megamind and Rango, the company has executed campaigns for Public Enemies and the recent The Green Hornet. “If Zynga is becoming a new destination platform for movies, we’d be very happy with that,” said Anekal.