Seeing ads in mobile games — particularly free-to-play ones— is pretty commonplace these days. But Zynga is about to take advertising one step further with the introduction of gamified ads. The popular mobile and social game company has introduced SponsoredPLAY, an advertising product for social games. With it, in-game brand integrations will be included in certain titles, without getting in the way of the game experiences themselves. The photo below shows some involvement of this, with a salad dressing being advertised in one of the company’s match-three titles.

Progressive Insurance SponsoredPLAY

With this program, Zynga hopes to offer players value in the game they are playing, in exchange for engaging with brand advertisers. But, again, it’s in a non-obtrusive way — and some of the advertising could be rather ingenious when it comes to in-game content.

“At Zynga we believe the next wave in mobile advertising will be SponsoredPLAY. Social games are one of the top entertainment activities consumers participate in on their mobile devices, and SponsoredPLAY offers a new way for brands to reward and engage users in game,” said Julie Shumaker, Vice President of Global Brand Sales, Zynga. “Our new SponsoredPLAY engagement ad products deliver advertisers significant brand lift by offering players content that is rewarding, additive to gameplay and improves the overall gaming experience.”

Some brands are already on board with the program, including Progressive Insurance. With it, gamified ad engagements will take place in a number of FarmVille games, including FarmVille: Harvest Swap, FarmVille 2: Country Escape and FarmVille 2, among others. Social aspects will play a big part with this project, with Twitter integration included so that the games can help “spread organic buzz and increase engagement,” according to the press release.

According to Zynga,SponsoredPLAY beta saw a double digit increase in player opt-in interactions compared to interstitial video ads, five to seven times the engagement of static ads and two to four times the average key brand health metrics like recall, purchase intent and more. In addition to this, Zynga has emphasized the social integration aspect and spoke with [a]listdaily about how brands are utilizing it.

“In some instances, like a recent Naked Juice campaign, players tweeted an image of fruits and vegetables from their FarmVille: Harvest Swap game board with the hashtag #100kcrops. This engagement was designed to raise awareness for Naked Juice and Wholesome Wave’s #100kcrops campaign. In other instances, we may leverage other social platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to drive meaningful social interactions between our players and brand partners,” said Shumaker.

When asked how Zynga approaches these SponsoredPLAY executions to retain the players’ experience of the game and authenticity, Shumaker went on to say that SponsoredPLAY engagements are developed in close partnership to Zynga’s game teams.

“The engagements are true extensions of our games, and leverage the game’s mechanics, design and overall look and feel to deliver an authentic player experience. For our players, SponsoredPLAY engagements feel like a new level in the game versus an interruptive ad — and in turn for engaging with these ads our players are rewarded with new content and sometimes in-game currency.”

“Zynga has had a long commitment to leveraging data and analytics to deliver the most personalized gaming experiences,” said Dr. Amy Gershkoff, Chief Data Officer, Zynga. “We’re seeing that use of data and analytics come to life with the launch of SponsoredPLAY, which enables us to deliver the most consumer-centric ad experience to players while helping brands meet the right consumers, in the right games at the right time.”

As gaming continues to shift toward a more mainstream market with mobile, non-gaming brands are beginning to see the value of of gamification.

“Mobile gaming is fast becoming the new TV. According to ComScore, in August the average consumer in the US spent more than 630 minutes a month playing mobile games. For brand partners, it’s clear that mobile gaming is now a favorite activity for consumers around the world,” said Shumaker. “For brands, it’s about having a meaningful presence in games where millions of people are playing, connecting and competing every day.”