WildTangent Moves Further Into Social Gaming With Brand Offers In Playdom’s Tiki Farm

WildTangent is continuing its foray into Facebook and social gaming, now providing brand-advertising offers on developer Playdom’s Facebook app, Tiki Farm. The tropical island farming game is beginning to feature brands that sponsor particular existing virtual goods in the game. Instead of a user paying for the good, they watch a video or somehow engage with an ad to get it. The first available is an orange tree, sponsored by Herbal Essence.

Although WildTangent has been offering a variety of sponsored advertising services for casual games, massively multiplayer online games, and other web-based games, it began focusing on tighter integration of virtual goods recently with the launch of BrandBoost. While some games may want to have an advertiser sponsor an item, the service can provide free access to a subscription-based game in exchange for watching a brand’s video. Popcap’s Bejeweled Blitz is also using the service, during the puzzle-shooter games’ weekly tournaments on Facebook.

We’ve covered a variety of companies beginning to get in to this area. WildTangent’s has an interesting advantage: direct relationships with 75 of the top 100 advertisers in the US, that it has developed over the years it has been running branded ads in games across the web, and through strategic investors like marketing conglomerate WPP. Those ads could be about anything from entertainment like new games and moves, to consumer packaged goods, auto, etc. Many other companies provide engagement-based video advertising provided by other networks, or more general services. WildTangent tells us its brand advertisers are looking for a qualitatively good experience for users, to help increase public perception. Tying a brand to a specific virtual item that a user is already familiar with in a game is one way to make the connection especially clear.

WildTangent charges on a cost-per-engagement basis, using a custom rich media format. On Facebook, it plans to expand to Facebook’s forthcoming 760 pixel width once that becomes available. Although advertisers have sometimes balked at going off an Interactive Advertising Bureau standard format, WildTangent tells us that many of its clients are seeking out these formats, to try to reach users in more meaningful ways. In many cases, the company will initially provide the creative service for an ad, and if it proves to work well, the client will do subsequent ads in-house. The ad format for sponsored items may include an overlay on top of the price the good normally costs, to help show users the virtual value of what they’re getting by watching the ad.

The game has already been in testing sponsored items with FreeRealms; other developers running BrandBoost include Sony Online Entertainment, Outspark and OMGPOP.

While many offer companies are looking for more brand advertising, WildTangent is looking for more inventory — whoever ends up with the most business, more brand ads should mean more revenue for developers. On that note, WildTangent says it is looking at other social platforms besides Facebook, but isn’t saying any more at this point.