Zyngaâ??s tarnished ad scheme makes tentative return

Zyngaâ??s tarnished ad scheme makes tentative return

By Rob Crossley

January 13th 2010 at 12:04PM

Company CEO promises tighter controls and open discussion with the industry

Social gaming outfit Zynga is bringing back its in-game ad system that previously faced accusations of hosting scams.

The firm’s CEO, Mark Pincus, stressed that the renewed service will adhere to a “strict set of standards” overlooked by a review panel.

Zynga – which now has an approximate valuation of between $1.5bn-$3bn – used to offer players the chance to sign up for various services instead of paying directly for premium game items. The developer’s cost-per-action ads gave users virtual currency for participating in various surveys, quizzes, or signing up for trial offers.

The initiative collapsed back in November after accusations that some of the advertised services had tricked users into buying services and products they didn’t want.

The matter put Zynga at the centre of a class action lawsuit, with the firm claiming at the time that the alleged scams were a matter beyond its control.

Now the firm is making careful steps to resume its crestfallen ad service.

“We have set up a team that is dedicated to checking the quality of any offer we display,” announced Pincus.

“This group reviews each offer and applies a strict set of standards for content and user experience before it can be displayed.”

The first eight in-game ad partners are, as Zynga puts it, all companies which have high Better Business Bureau ratings. The likes of Netflix, Blockbuster, HSBC Direct, and The New York Times have been announced as new advertisers.

“Over time, we will phase in more companies as they meet our new standards,” added Pincus.

"For some users, this enables a purchase they could not have otherwise made or justified. For developers like us it represents incremental revenue to fund our games.

“In addition, you will be seeing new brand engagement ads tested in our games. PetVille will test ads from Visa, Sprint, XBox, Timberland, MTV, TV Land, CW and HTC. This type of brand engagement will allow users to gain currency in a fast and easy way.

“We also have technology in place that will regularly check offers to verify that only Zynga reviewed offers are displayed.”

Pincus added that the firm is seeking to partner with the industry to develop universal standards and policies for advertising around social games and virtual goods,  “to ensure that our users have meaningful game experiences from companies they can trust.”

Zynga recently won $200 million in funding from a Russian investment firm.