Groupon buys a Super Bowl Ad, but where’s Zynga?

This could have been you, Zynga. Groupon is buying a Super Bowl pre-game TV ad and now the free publicity and buzz is rising from all the media hounds like myself who have nothing else better to write about.

As you may recall, my first prediction ever (before I was a week-long would-be Nostradamus last week) was that Zynga would launch Zynga Live at the end of January of this year and launch it with a Super Bowl ad.

Though I think this would have been a smart move, I am probably going to be wrong about this prediction.

The first reason is though Zynga have proven themselves to be the best direct marketers and data miners in the world, they have not yet proven their worth as brand marketers. The only brand marketing I have ever seen them do right, actually, is in their own office. The brand ads and posters are actually quite good in their hallways, the problem is, that doesn’t really do much beyond the 1300 people who work there.

The second reason I am wrong is that Zynga Live is probably not launching anytime soon. Technically, it’s probably ready to launch. All the pieces for a social network – email, friend invites, database, servers, virtual currency – are all alive and kicking in CityVille and they work well.

The problem is that with the success of CityVille, Zynga is more dependent on Facebook than ever before. CityVille has 80 million monthly average users, but they are all on Facebook. So now, they have 80 million more reasons to not leave Facebook.

Zynga could launch its social game network tomorrow to great success and fanfare, but it’s not worth the risk of alienating Facebook, which controls 99.9% of its distribution right now and growing.

Which brings us back to Groupon and its Super Bowl ad. If Zynga’s goal is to IPO this year, then their competition is not other social game companies (they already won that battle) but companies that also want to IPO Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Groupon.

The key to have a successful IPO is to have a story as successful or better than other similar companies going public. As companies like Facebook raise money with $50 billion valuations and Groupon buys Superbowl ads, Zynga must once again step up its game. The Super Bowl would have been a good first step.

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