Hints of an Ad Network, but No Ad Network: First Facebook Ads Appear on Zynga.com
You may notice something different while goofing off at work playing FarmVille this morning: The first Facebook ads are appearing on Zynga.com’s in-game pages, marking the first time ever that the social giant’s ads have shown up on a Web site outside of its own.
But more significantly, it’s also the first sign of a Facebook advertising network, one that extends beyond Facebook’s own site and across the Internet at large. It’s the same thing Google has done for years, and a long-expected next step for Facebook in its longer-term advertising strategy — one that has come under fire lately for being ineffective and lacking relevance.
As for the new ads, which were first noticed by Inside Facebook, Facebook confirmed their existence, though it’s not clear whether or not the ads are appearing across all of Zynga’s games. And Facebook was quick to reassert its stance on privacy: “We don’t share any information about people or advertisers with Zynga and advertisers do not have any new targeting criteria,” a Facebook spokeswoman told me in an emailed statement.
It’s not wholly unexpected. In Zynga’s S-1 filing last July, the company noted the possibility of a revenue sharing agreement where Facebook’s ads appear on Zynga properties. The new ads will indeed include a rev share, though we don’t know the exact amount (that part was redacted from Zynga’s S-1, unfortunately).
The timing is peculiar. Earlier this week, Facebook killed Credits, the company’s proprietary virtual currency of the past year and a half. The extra layer of Credits meant extra friction for users, which often results in decreased spending. And that’s obviously bad for companies like Zynga.
So it’s possible that in the constant push and pull between Facebook and game makers, Facebook made the Credits concession while Zynga swung open the door to Facebook running ads on Zynga.com.
For what it’s worth, Facebook flatly denies my theory: “The timing of this announcement is unrelated to our news about Credits earlier this week,” a company spokeswoman told me. Zynga didn’t return my phone call.
Whatever the case, it’s another step toward what many assume will come from Facebook one day. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for Facebook ads on other sites.