With everybody whipping through commercials on their DVRs, product placement on prime-time television is fairly prevalent these days. As Seth MacFarlane commented to the New York Times this week, we even speak in brands — "On any give day, how many times do you reference a piece of pop culture or a brand name? I bet it’s a lot more often than we think. 'I’m going across the street to Starbucks.' 'I’ll make a Xerox of it.' Our daily lives are packed with proper nouns of the corporate kind."
So it should come as no surprise that MacFarlane is a champion of brand synergy, as he's showing by leveraging his hit Fox animated series Family Guy to promote his big-screen debut as a director. Even though his R-rated movie Ted doesn't hit theaters until June 29, its foul-mouthed star has already found his way into Family Guy Online, a 3D game extension of the hit animated comedy that launched last fall.
After all, the film is directed, cowritten, and partially voiced by MacFarlane so it was a natural fit to cross-promote the film and television show. And given that Ted is cut from the same cloth as Family Guy (although it's a live-action comedy starring a CGI raunchy, talking teddy bear plus Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis) the movie/game crossover promotion was a no-brainer move for MacFarlane and Fox — and a handful of invited brand partners.
Putting the "sin" in synergy, the character of Ted can be found in different areas of the free-to-play multiplayer online game, though game visitors aren’t able to “play” Ted as a character. Instead, players are able to “interact directly with him and earn in-game rewards,” according to a press release.
If players see Ted in all of his spots through the game and watch related movie clips, they earn virtual rewards for their character as well as an achievement award. That could be the easiest achievement award you’ll ever get.
The Family Guy Online game has given Twentieth Century Fox a few opportunities along the way to work with brands such as Unilever’s Axe and Klondike Choco Taco to strike in-game advertising deals for FGO.
Back in April, "during two weekends, players were given virtual Axe Anarchy Body Spray items that they could then deploy to earn experience points and, when activated, cause other players near them to break out into dance,” a press release states. “Players could also play a custom mini-game and compete against other players’ scores by riding the mechanical bull-like Klondike Choco Taco.”