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Capital One's Barbarians Invade Farmville

In a social media marketing effort, the bank's Facebook page offers a way to gain extra FarmVille mastery points, Visigoth clothing for characters.

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Capital One and Zynga are offering limited edition virtual Visigoth items to FarmVille players who show their appreciation of the barbarians who have been terrorizing customers of other credit cards for the past five years.

For the next week, FarmVille players can get a free Visigoth statue from Capital One that grants coveted "Double Mastery" points on crops and trees harvested over seven days when they place it on their farm. This increases the rate at which players advance to higher levels in the game. FarmVille players will have access to branded clothing--a Farmville first--so they can outfit their avatars with Visigoth costumes, in male and female styles. In addition, players can earn "Farm Cash" by interacting with Capital One TV ads featuring the Visigoths.

Or at least those are the promises--as of mid-day Friday, the announcement of the offer on Captial One's Facebook page was cluttered with comments from FarmVille players who complained they hadn't received their statues or their costumes. Other players said they had, so it was not clear whether these complaints represented a technical glitch or a misunderstanding about how the game was supposed to work.

Capital One spokesperson Pam Girardo said in an email that the credit card company was checking with Zynga, the company behind the game, on the reason for the complaints. She said the intention of the game was to build positive brand awareness, rather than driving consumers to complete a specific transaction, such as signing up for a credit card. But they do have to visit the Capital One Facebook page to get their prizes.

"The integration gives us a new way to engage consumers and enhance their interactions with our brand, and gives players a distinctive way to personalize their farms and advance to higher levels in the game. We can't wait to see FarmVille avatars dressed in Visigoth attire," Girardo wrote.

The prizes are built around Zynga's advertising guidelines, which state that such product placements are supposed to blend in somehow with the content of its games. Zynga has built a Zynga cloudgrowing business around FarmVille, CityVille, Mafia Wars, and other social games.

This form of in-game product placement has been attracting other big names such as McDonald's and Microsoft's Bing search engine.

At a time when many companies are experimenting with gamification as a strategy for making their Web and social experiences more fun and engaging by creating their own systems for awarding points, advertising in a game like FarmVille with an existing fan (or fanatic) base and an established rewards system may be a simpler way of achieving the same goal.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Boston to see the latest social business tools and technologies. Register with code CPBJEB03 and save $100 off conference passes or for a free expo pass. It happens June 20-23. Find out more.

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