Michael Arrington posted over the weekend about CPA offers within
social games and questioned why facebook, myspace, zynga and others would expose
these to our users. He raises good points about ‘scammy’ advertisers and the
bad user experience they create. I agree with him and others that some of these
offers misrepresent and hurt our industry.
It has been my mission at zynga to create a sustainable
consumer service with long term value to our users and partners. Social gaming is emerging quickly and requiring
new rules of engagement from host networks to user payments and
So why does zynga offer these ads?
Most of these offers are good for the
advertiser and user. There are many users who don’t have access to online payment
methods who are still interested in making in game purchases. There is also
great potential for large web players like amzn, ebay and netflix to leverage
social media channels like facebook and zynga to acquire new user
relationships. Sponsoring a white tiger or pink tractor may accelerate these customer acquisition campaigns.
The offer industry is still just getting started and this category
of advertising makes up a small minority of our revenue, the bulk of which comes
from users directly purchasing virtual goods.
We have worked hard to police and remove bad offers. In fact,
the worst offender, tatto media, referenced in the techcrunch article, had already been taken down and permanently banned prior
to the post. Nevertheless, we need to be more aggressive
and have revised our service level agreements with these providers requiring
them to filter and police offers prior to posting on their networks. We have
also removed all mobile ads until we see any that offer clear user value.
At zynga, we have faced a similar challenge in providing customer support to millions of users of our free games. Six months ago we were
overwhelmed with our ticket volumes and faced an F rating with the better
business bureau. We made massive efforts to address this, getting our maximum
response times for live email and phone support down to 72 hours and raised our
rating to a B+. Even today we realize our customer support isn’t at the level
our users expect and we continue to work on it.
Similarly, we are working to improve the quality of the CPA offers
exposed to our users and evolving our policies and practices to ensure that
zynga is worthy of our users’ trust.
There is no doubt that social gaming is entering the
mainstream culture and there is a business to be created around fun. It's particularly
exciting to see how social games can empower people to change their world. In a small way, we have seen this with our
sweet seeds for Haiti campaign where Farmville players raised $500k to provide
lunches for 500 kids for the next year. We expect to do more.
As we evolve to a world where people connections are the
basis for the largest consumer services, we will face more challenges. I’m
confident that with so many smart people (and critics) we will overcome these.