Brands in Draw Something

The makers of Draw Something were acquired by Zynga a couple of months ago, and since then Zynga has been busily adding “sponsored brands” to the game.

Until recently, the Pictionary-like game had only run spammy banner ads in its free mobile app that, including the paid no-ads version, has amassed a staggering 50 million downloads in five months. Now, with a direct-sales force that’s been on the ground for a whole eight weeks, Draw Something is inserting advertisers’ paid terms into the game for players to literally draw brands.

Here’s how the game works: Pick a word from a list of three, then create a drawing so a Facebook friend can guess that word and you can win points. For the ad product, imagine inserting words like “Doritos” or “Coca-Cola” in among “golfer,” “bikini” or “fireworks.”

However, as brands begin to come onboard, Draw Something’s popularity with consumers may be waning. Its monthly active users have declined in recent weeks, according to App Data. Daily active users have dropped from 14 million at the beginning of April to about 10 million.

I’m not surprised that people are jumping ship. On the one hand, it’s an interesting business model, particularly as a departure from traditional banner ads. Nonetheless, I bought the paid version of Draw Something before it was acquired by Zynga, and I resent having “brands” shoved at me in an app I already paid for. This sort of thing is the problem with the “make it free and monetize later” model. In the long run, it ends up being annoying for users.