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NEW YORK Amongst video channels like Hulu and YouTube that hosted presentations at this year's NewFronts—the digital version of the TV industry's media-buying ploy known as upfronts—were a handful of brands looking to sell ads against other types of content. Social gaming giant Zynga, best known for Facebook game FarmVille and the mobile app that got Alec Baldwin kicked off a plane, Words With Friends, closed out the week of sales pitches with its first foray into the NewFronts. Held Friday at Openhouse Gallery, the evening reception entertained guests with 3-D versions of its games.
Intentionally designed as a departure from the typical show-and-tell-style format of upfronts and NewFronts, the event looked to capture the brand's offbeat identity and the way in which its users engage with its content. Zynga's internal team—director of brand strategy Jonathan Waecker, vice president of ad sales Julie Shumaker, and creative director Arianna Orland—worked closely with producer MKG to weave statistics about the company's reach and cocktail party standards—a bar, photo booth, passed hors d'oeuvres, and entertainment—into a scene that included a petting zoo with actors dressed as barnyard animals, tablets inviting guests to draw their own drink, a wall of live hands offering cans of beer and prizes, and catering trays designed to look like Words With Friends.
“We really worked with MKG to not craft another NewFront, but to really create a celebration of what Zynga provides for our players and bring that fun to life,” Waecker said. “It was a wild and zany kind of concept, but it's us; it's who we are.”
A big part of that was finding ways to educate ad execs in attendance without giving a presentation, which included integrating stats into unexpected places like the roof of a bar. “It was a really nice way to have a conversation and remind people about the breadth and depth of our offering without schooling them on it,” Waecker said.