The addictive word game on freerice.com may have already busted many New Year’s resolutions to quit procrastinating (20 grains). For every correct definition, the site’s advertisers donate the cost of 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme. Seriously, how can you not play?
Players have proliferated (20 grains) wildly since its October launch; more than 6.9 billion grains of rice were donated in December. WFP site traffic has jumped to levels it usually sees only during emergencies.
“It’s our No. 1 referral site,” says Brenda Barton, deputy director of communications for the WFP. “Our page visits, when the game was first launched, was 250,000. They almost doubled by November.”
The WFP had to create a new landing page to guide users. John Breen, who developed FreeRice to help his son study, added harder words and a way to save scores. The game has inspired more than 240 Facebook groups and a couple of applications — and a few copycat sites not affiliated (20 grains) with WFP.
Advertisers such as iTunes, Lillian Vernon and Enterprise have banners on FreeRice; smaller advertisers use Google’s text ads.
Camron Assadi, deputy Internet director for Mercy Corps, says his NGO advertises on FreeRice to reach consumers while they’re thinking altruistically (20 grains).
“I heard about it, actually, through friends,” says Assadi. “I guess that’s proof of its viral catchiness.”