Draw Something (a Big Brand Wants You to)

Like 50 million other people worldwide, I’ve fallen into the Draw Something trap. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Draw Something, it is basically a mobile app social game carbon copy of Pictionary. There are both a free and paid version which are largely identical to each other with one major exception, players of the free version are forced to view an ad between each turn. However, if you’re anything like me you just look for that little white ”x” in the corner and move on to the next game without ever glancing at the ad itself. But if you think doing this means you’re skipping all advertisements, you’re largely mistaken. Not only have they been throwing ads at you all along, but they’ve been using you to push their products.

Personally, I’ve drawn/guessed words like Nike and Doritos before and thought nothing of it. Just assuming it was the game’s clever little way to appear culturally relevant, similar to how they use popular musician names such as Kanye West, Bieber, and Skrillex. As it turns out though, it was really just part of an experiment to see how users of the app would respond when given the option to draw these proper nouns and others such as KFC and Coca-Cola. And the results… well, let’s just say they aren’t going away anytime soon.

“People loved to draw the Colonel and bags of Doritos” says former OMGPop CEO Dan Porter, now VP-mobile and general manager Draw Something’s new parent company, Zynga. Because of this success, they have now signed an official advertising deal with the NHL, meaning players will begin seeing popular hockey terms such as “hat trick,” “puck” and “slapshot.” By no means do these words scream blatant product placement, but just know that the words are there because the NHL has paid for them to be. After all, why wouldn’t they want to get hockey on your mind while the Stanley Cup Playoffs are under way?

One thing I have always enjoyed about the advertising world is its constant need to evolve. Placing newspapers and magazines online has taken eyes off of print ads. The iPod has saved me from listening to ads and the “witty banter” of self-absorbed radio personalities. And because of the invention of the DVR, it now only takes me only 42 minutes to watch a 42 minute TV show. As long as technology continues to evolve, the advertising world is going to have to evolve with it. Challenge accepted.