Maybelline partnered with video game developer Zynga to launch an in-game playable ad, according to details shared with sister publication Marketing Dive. The game launched Aug. 25.
Designed by Zynga’s in-house gaming studio, Studio E, “Maybelline Mascara Merge” involves merging three icons together to reveal a Maybelline mascara and earn points. The game will live in the developer’s Rollic Studio games, which include titles like “High Heels!” and “Blob Runner.”
The effort, which will run for a handful of months, follows renewed interest in social gaming as platforms like TikTok begin exploring innovative ways to reach Gen Z, Gen Alpha and millennial consumers.
Maybelline’s playable ad activation, the first across Zynga’s hyper-casual games, shows the beauty brand exploring mobile gaming as a way to drive awareness and sales. The move could see a payoff as many are newly betting on social gaming with platforms like TikTok, also a partner to Zynga, exploring mini-game pilots.
“Maybelline Mascara Merge,” which the brand dubs as a hybrid between shoppable ads and mobile gaming, requires players to match like-icons together to reveal one of three Maybelline mascaras. Each revealed mascara is tied to a product review, and once all icons have been matched or time runs out, players will see branded video content and a link to an Ulta Beauty landing page where they can purchase the product.
The ad game will be available on Zyga’s hyper-casual titles, allowing Maybelline to tap into global audiences who have already downloaded the games. Rather than traditional playable ads that interrupt gameplay, “Maybelline Mascara Merge” enables deeper engagement as players earn points that have value in the game they are playing. By taking a hands-off approach to the gaming community, the brand has potential to sway consumers in less direct ways while still driving awareness.
A rise in mobile gaming could represent a resurgence for traditional efforts by Zynga. In 2009, the video game developer, which also launched FarmVille, caught the eyes of marketers for its work with Facebook. While mobile gaming seemingly lost ground during ensuing years, today that arm of Zynga’s business offers a potential upside for brands. Zynga reported 40 million daily active users via mobile formats in the first quarter of 2022, which was up 3% over the same period last year, according to the company’s first-quarter 2022 reports.
Other companies are also taking another look at the space, including Duracell, which launched an Instagram mini-game, “Bunny Hop,” to promote its Optimum batteries. Brand campaigns are also adding mini-games to their tool kit, like Instacart’s latest partnership with Lizzo to create a Snapchat game promoting its new “Cart” feature. Though, Snapchat recently announced it would be axing its mini-game arm, a move that could potentially jolt the industry for marketers contemplating similar activations.