Zynga announced that it was bringing back social advertising offers earlier today, after suspending them for two months while the company worked on new quality controls. Now, per a blog post by chief executive Mark Pincus last night, the offers are back. And they look more like normal coupons than the remnant-style advertising you see elsewhere on the web.
We covered the announcement in a little more detail over on Inside Social Games. But here’s a closer look at the first Zynga offer wall now in action (that we know of), currently viewable in PetVille. It’s provided by a company called SocialVibe, from what we can tell; it’s not one of the established offer companies, and instead it has spent the last couple of years creating social engagement advertising that caters to major brands.
This is on display in the offer wall, although there are only four advertisers at this point (typical offer walls have dozens if not hundres, albeit many of lower quality).
The advertisers in PetVille include Microsoft’s Xbox game Lips, apparel company Timberland, device-maker HTC and carrier Sprint. You participate in the offers to earn the virtual currency, PetVille Coins, then you can use them to buy goods in the pet-caring game.
There are a few key points about this offer wall that are worth looking at more closely, as they address past problems with offers.
First, each of the offers includes text that clearly explains what action the user will be asked to take. Other offers have not always clearly disclosed this information.
Second, each ad is clearly for a brand. There’s no secret plan here to get users to sign up for something they don’t want, such as a mobile ringtone subscription; there’s no sneaky survey asking them to reveal personal information.
Third, the top of the offer wall shows a button that says “Missing PetVille Coins.” Although other offer walls have this feature, many users who took offers have complained that they did not receive the coins they earned in a timely manner. In this wall, users can see what offers they’ve already earned and what ones they’re still waiting to receive points for. “If you have an activity listed below with a Status of ‘Pending’ please note that it can take up to 30 minutes for coins to be awarded,” a note in the interface explains. The 30 minute turnaround is notable because some offers have taken days — or longer — to be redeemed.
Now, let’s look at a sample offer: The Sprint ad.
It appears as a pop-up window, so you don’t get taken away from the app. The ad asks users to watch and rank a video proclaiming the greatness of Sprint, with the ranking scale going between 1 and 5 stars. Once you’ve ranked the video, you see another pop-up window asking if you want to publish the ranking to your Facebook friends, or skip that action — this is another opportunity for the ad to reach Facebook users, and a tactic that we haven’t seen in offer walls to date.
Then, once you’re done with the ad, you can see that you’ve taken the offer. Instead of a button that says “300 PetVille Coins” in bright green, it is now greyed out, and the text says “Completed!” Some offer companies have previously tried to get users to take the same offer more than once, an action that Facebook has prohibited.
This offer wall clearly has a better user experience than most others that we’ve seen to date: the offer quality is high and users are told exactly what they’re earning, and when and how they’re earning it. Zynga has put considerable time into ensuring that third-party offer providers treat users well; SocialVibe has created an experience that does this. We’ve also heard that Zynga is working with other offer companies, including a market leader, Offerpal. While we don’t see any of those walls live yet, we’re interested to see what adaptions these companies have made, as well.
The wall also shows what many people in advertising and social gaming have long understood: Offers are fundamentally valuable, when done right. Advertisers want to get in front of users who will otherwise ignore banner advertising. The fact that users are incentivized by social gaming offers to participate in ads is conceptually similar to, say, a TV viewer being incentived to sit through a commercial in order to continue watching a program. While brands may not use offer walls to sell subscriptions — although some will, like Netflix — the value they get is in being able to clearly see that people are engaging with their ads, then measure that attention against their other ad campaign goals. We’ve seen similar efforts by other offer companies, including gWallet’s videos, that have yielded positive results for brands.
With improvements like these, the offers industry is moving closer to tapping into the billions of dollars that brands spend on advertising every year.