Zynga Gets Publicity Lift From Word Game-Engrossed ‘30 Rock’ Star Baldwin

Zynga Inc. has Alec Baldwin to thank for giving its “Words With Friends” word game a publicity boost.

Baldwin, star of NBC’s “30 Rock,” was so engrossed in the Scrabble-like game he got ejected from an American Airlines flight for refusing to stop playing. The actor took his phone into the plane’s lavatory, slamming the door hard enough to alarm pilots in the cockpit, American Airlines said today on its page on Facebook Inc.’s social network.

“Flight attendant on American reamed me out 4 playing WORDS W FRIENDS while we sat at the gate, not moving,” Baldwin, 53, said in a post to Twitter Inc.’s microblogging service yesterday after the incident.

After Baldwin refused to turn off his phone and obey signs requiring seat belts, he was removed from the flight, according to the airline’s statement.

“The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language,” American Airlines said.

Baldwin today apologized to other passengers, while criticizing a flight attendant for singling him out, and said others were also using their phones.

“I guess the fact that this woman, who had decided to make some example of me, while everyone else was left undisturbed, did get the better of me,” he wrote in a Huffington Post article.

Good Publicity

Zynga, which plans to sell shares in an initial public offering, is the biggest maker of games on Facebook Inc. Still, it’s less well understood by many of the investors targeted by its IPO marketing effort, currently under way, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. Baldwin’s American Airlines flap may raise Zynga’s profile, he said.

“This is phenomenal for Zynga,” said Pachter, who’s based in Los Angeles. “The problem for Zynga with investors has been that the average portfolio manager doesn’t relate to their games. This definitely helps change their perception.”

Zynga took up Baldwin’s cause with Twitter posts featuring the phrase, “#LetAlecPlay.” “Words With Friends” is Zynga’s sixth most popular game, according to Appdata.com.

Baldwin was removed from a flight to New York from Los Angeles, the actor said on his Twitter account. American Airlines parent AMR Corp. (AMR) filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors on Nov. 29.

“He loves WWF so much that he was willing to leave a plane for it, but he has already boarded another AA flight,” Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Baldwin, said in a statement. 

‘Words With Friends’

Adam Isserlis, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Zynga, declined to comment beyond the company’s posts on Twitter.

“Words With Friends” was created by Newtoy Inc., a McKinney, Texas-based game developer acquired by Zynga in December 2010. A version of the game with advertising is free on Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s AppStore, while a commercial-free version costs $2.99.

Zynga is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion in the biggest IPO by a U.S. Internet company since Google Inc.’s debut. The “Let Alec Play” graphic features a scoreboard saying, “A Baldwin 1, American Air 0.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Douglas Macmillan in New York at dmacmillan3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net; Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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