Friday, February 28, 2014

Play and Watch The Simpsons– Smartphone Game as an Innovative Way of Promoting the TV Show

Doughnut is quite overpriced, but...
As one of The Simpsons fans, finding new stuffs related to this TV show always make me excited. I even loved to drink banana flavored milk with the illustration of Bart when I was in the South Korea. This excitement reached the peak when I visited the Universal Studio in Orlando this winter break. In the Universal Studio, there is Springfield, USA that embodied village appeared in the Simpsons. Even though I paid an overpriced ticket for this theme park, I literally forgot everything and obsessed with looking around everything that appeared in the ‘Springfield USA’. I bought the pink doughnut that Homer always loves in every episode, and took a photo with the chief Wiggum. After coming back to the Iowa City, I checked my bank account status, then just screamed with saying, “Oh gosh, it made me spend the money like water!” This multiple experience on one TV show does not only apply to my case. Starting from the Weddings of a Lifetime in late 20th Century, it is an ongoing trend that TV show and related byproduct appeared in both on-screen and off-the-screen, for maximizing their profit and making synergy effects. On behalf of that, Smartphone game that is co-developed by the EA Mobile, Fox Digital Entertainment and Gracie Films, The Simpsons: Tapped Out did not only make the profit as a game, but also used as a tool to promote the TV show The Simpsons. This attempt didn’t end in the case of The Simpsons, but become a great example of how media companies try to promote their product - especially TV shows - in diverse ways. 
Before we talked about The Simpsons case, knowing about the former case of synergy effect will be helpful to understand The Simpsons’. TV show Weddings of a Lifetime is one of the great examples that showed TV Show's synergy effect with byproduct. As Levine mentioned, the audience of this TV show is young to middle-aged women and Lifetime considered it as a marketing strategy during the Weddings of a Lifetime (p. 77). Lifetime helps Disney to promote products that are heavily related to women in that age through the Weddings of a Lifetime. Promoted products included Walt Disney World, their cruise vacation and even pricy fairy tale styled wedding package (Levine, p. 72). Even though there are no exact statistic data about the effect of this promotion method, their attempted strategy is more effective than promoting the related product to the general audience because this is more focused and headed to the niche audience who really wants specific products that is advertised.
When we look through The Simpsons Tapped Out game with considering the case of Weddings of a Lifetime, it is obvious that EA, Fox and Gracie Films are trying to promote the TV show The Simpsons via this Smartphone game. It is true that the difference between Tapped Out and other social games is hard to find at the first glimpse because of the same basic structures like an in-app purchase. Of course, they make the profit by selling the premium characters and decorations, too, and the results are even pretty impressive. According to the Jordan (2014), The Simpsons: Tapped Out made $130 million in lifetime revenue with “hitting a record level of daily active users” and helped EA Mobile to boost their sales. But other than that, what Tapped Out make different to other social games is its long history and reputation of the original story. Tapped Out was created based on the TV show The Simpsons, which is a famous TV show that lasts 25 seasons until 1989, which means that its story and character is quite well known, and the majority of users of the Tapped Out is the fan of The Simpsons. If not, users will familiar to The Simpsons and its character at least. Like Lifetime knows about their audience’s demographic and used it as a benefit to promote related products, these companies who developed the Tapped Out know about their audience; Users have interests in the TV show The Simpsons (or know about The Simpsons at least), which means promoting the TV show The Simpsons would be perfectly matched to the Users of Tapped Out. Compared to the TV show Weddings of a Lifetime example, Tapped Out took a role as a Weddings of a Lifetime itself. Like Weddings of a Lifetime promotes Disney products through constant exposure, Tapped out encourages people to watch the TV show The Simpsons more by repeating the episode that was aired a few years ago via events, or embodying the detailed decorations that appeared on the Simpsons episode, from house to newspaper dispenser.
Oscar's Truck in the episode 'Yellow Subterfuge' (Season 25, 7th episode, Originally aired December 8, 2013)
Truck as a Decoration
@ Tapped Out
What is more, there are 2 episodes in the Season 25 that the developers of the Tapped Out explicitly tried to promote the specific episode, which shows the developer’s intention of promoting The Simpsons with the aid of Tapped Out. For example, after the updates of the Tapped Out are made on December 4, 2013, new events named ‘Clandestine Nerd’ appeared on the screen. Divided in 3 parts, conversations between Lisa and Skinner leak the part of the new episode. However, the game doesn’t reveal the whole episodes, but gave a message instead ‘Uncover all the answers on Sunday’s episodes of the Simpsons8/7 c on Fox! Or on your DVR any time afterwards!’ with giving free decoration that also relates to the episode. A few days after the update (December 8, 2013), episode named ‘Yellow Subterfuge’ aired on the Fox, with revealing the whole things that were concealed in the game. Of course, a decoration that was given as a reward in the game also appeared on the real episode. 
As we can see in the example of the 'Clandestine Nerd' events on the Tapped Out, it shows the developers intents on users through the game. Like the Weddings of a Lifetime become a tool to promote Disney's products throughout the whole episodes, The Simpson: Tapped Out started to work as a promoting tool to boost the viewing rates of The Simpsons. It is not sure that EA, Gracie Films and Fox keep using this strategy or not. But one evident thing that we can conclude is, that Tapped Out is not just a game for making extra money and media companies kept trying to expand their tools for promoting the TV show as much as they can, like Tapped Out did.


Jordan, Jon. "EA Mobile Sees Q3 FY14 Sales up 13% to $97 Million." Steel Media Limited, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.
Levine, Elana. "Fractured Fairy Tales and Fragmented Markets: Disney's Weddings of a Lifetime and the Cultural Politics of Media Conglomeration." Television & New Media 6.1 (2005): 71-88. Print.
"Yellow Subterfuge." The Simpsons. Fox. 8 Dec. 2013. Television.

By Yongsoo Gweon


  1. It is interesting to see the working of synergy within television, especially on one of the longest airing shows in history, being The Simpsons. All of the references to other television series, such as Weddings of a Lifetime, greatly added to the depth of your critique. It seems that the majority of television these days uses various other methods of advertisement that goes beyond the basic commercial, in order to maximize on their viewership, as well as team up with other companies, to create a symbiotic relationship across all of their brands.

  2. I found it interesting on how much synergy has become a part of our lives. Like you said synergy has an exponential effect, we want to consume the things we see on shows we like, go to the amusement parks that embody them as well as play the games that are modeled after them. It is a brilliant market strategy to use these different platform the variety of products.

  3. I completely agree with Vinny's comment because I too believe TV shows are attempting to find new ways to promote their show. Recently my roommate bought a copy of the new South Park video game. To the say the least the game is good raunchy fun but it ultimately becomes a tool for marketing, just like "Simpsons Tapped Out." I liked that you mentioned certain levels of "Simpsons Tapped Out" referenced a particular episode because having seen the new South Park game being played you pick up on the certain cues of reference, which eventually sparks the interest to re-watch an that episode, thus a way to harness more viewers.


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