Zynga Brings Back Social Adverting Offers, With Tight Supervision

After a two-month hiatus, Zynga is reintroducing advertising offers to its social games. The company, like most other developers, had for a long time run offers within its games, letting users take offers — anything from a Netflix subscription to a mobile ringtone subscription — in exchange for virtual currency.

Because users could buy items they wanted within games with this currency, offers proved to be popular. But some of the offers were scams, and others were not clearly valuable. Many of the mobile ringtone ones, for example, deceived users into signing up for $10 per month subscriptions; people would only discover the problem when they opened their monthly phone bill.

After facing mounting criticism over the lower-quality offers — which we’ve detailed here — Zynga decided to pull all of them in early November. The company never said that it was done with this revenue stream, though, and in fact we’ve been hearing for weeks from multiple sources that offers are coming back. While Zynga did not confirm those rumors with us, chief executive Mark Pincus has a lot more to say on his personal blog.

First, offers are limited to eight advertisers for now: Netflix, Discover Card, Blockbuster, HSBC Direct, Gamefly, Book of the Month Club, SnapFish and The New York Times. Zynga plans to expand the list over time.

Second, the company has set up a team and technology to carefully police offers for quality. Assuming it continues to carefully select who gets let in, the team might not have much to police.

Third, the company is testing what Pincus calls “brand engagement ads,” which we assume are branded virtual goods and other in-game fare. “PetVille will test ads from Visa, Sprint, xBox, Timberland, MTV, TV Land, CW and HTC,” he says. “This type of brand engagement will allow users to gain currency in a fast and easy way.”