McDonald's was the first. Nearly two weeks ago they offered players of the popular Facebook game, Farmville, a branded and interactive "neighbor farm" where players could grow mustard and tomato seeds, earn McCafe consumables within the game, and even earn a big red hot air balloon, painted with the well-known golden arches, to place on their own farms.
In a similar move, this week Farmers Insurance will start offering virtual crop insurance to Farmville players. Placing the familiar silver Zeppelin on a player's farm insures against what you might call "virtual crop wither."
I love this idea of product placement within online interactive gaming. With more than 60 million players, Farmville is a great place for brands to get their name - in a fun and funny setting - placed before would-be customers.
I haven't heard reports yet about the cost of this type of product placement, but it can't be cheap with access to the millions of people currently playing Zynga (and other) games. What other brands make sense for Farmville placement? And what of the other Zynga games available on Facebook? Will we see Smith & Wesson do brand placement in Mafia Wars? Will Purina give PetVille a test run? What do you think about this new arena for advertisers?