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Vivendi Goes Viral for Mobile Game

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LOS ANGELES Vivendi Games Mobile is for the first time using a viral strategy to promote one of its games, according to Maria Pacheco, vice president of marketing.

The effort from independent Omelet, Los Angeles, for The Incredible Machine game is aimed at older women, Pacheco said, who tend to enjoy building the puzzle game's "Rube Goldberg"-type contraptions on their mobile devices.

The plan for promoting downloads of the game starts with an Omelet-produced and seeded viral teaser video starring a live-action '70s-TV-style action heroine, Farah McDaring, against a backdrop using game graphics, said Ryan Stoner, senior planner at the agency. The teaser and banner ads are meant to drive traffic to a Web site where users can interact with a full version of the viral video that incorporates game-play mechanics and encourages game downloading. Stoner said it is "not a lean back but a lean forward [interactive] experience."

Rather than paid seeding (such as buying YouTube front-page placement), Omelet's approach is to strategically seed by, for example, creating a MySpace page for the McDaring character and using still images from the viral video. Through a "What's in your bag?" call to action, viewers are asked to create and post videos related to what's in their handbags. Omelet creatives expect imaginative postings. The agency is also seeding the content on newswires, user groups, online communities and blogs.

"Our overarching strategy is to create a moment of escape that not only entertains but allows them to facilitate their social interaction with the game," said Stoner.

"A lot of marketing for mobile games has been basic banner ads," said Pacheco, whose Los Angeles-based division of Vivendi Games released the mobile game Surviving High School, which became a Verizon Network best-seller. "At the beginning of the year, we decide that there would not be more static banner ads without interaction. So we were open to anything that our agency could come up with," she said.

Pacheco said that the competition in the space is heavy, with the game company competing against heavily promoted movie titles, for example, and with game giants such as Electronic Arts and Sega starting to get into mobile gaming, too. She added that she has not seen viral videos used to promote any Vivendi Games, "possibly even on the console side...We have to differentiate ourselves with a creative campaign."