Zynga, the 800-pound gorilla in the consumer online gaming space, is in a bit of hot water over a guerrilla marketing campaign that is being seen by some (including law enforcement officials) as vandalism.
Zynga's agency, Davis Elen Advertising, devised and executed a program which glued fake $25,000 dollar bills to the streets of San Francsico and New York. The campaign is to promote the company's latest game: "Mafia Wars: Las Vegas."
The fake bills forced San Francisco's Department of Public Works cleaning crews to spend three hours steam-cleaning the glued down fliers off the sidewalk. And, for what the city attorney's office called "illegal and actionable" marketing tactics, the agency will now face legal action from the city, partly as a deterrent to future acts of vandalism.
"It's not okay to vandalize public property, and benefit from illegal advertising, and then hose it off and congratulate yourself for your clever guerrilla marketing," Matt Dorsey, spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.
This could be chalked up to a one-off, ill-conceived idea were it not for another stunt Zynga pulled off just the other day. The company commissioned rapper Snoop Dogg to blow up an armored truck in the middle of a Nevada desert.
They're clearly wanting to create controversy.
And, the edgy, legally questionable marketing efforts may be paying off: Zynga says three million users played Mafia Wars: Las Vegas during its first two weeks of beta play.