As a long-term Words With Friends user (both paid and unpaid), I was stunned by an ad that was presented to me recently. The headline “Want a Girlfriend?” showed me pictures of scantily-clad girls who were CLEARLY under age. The call to action was a huge arrow with the word “FREE” and the copy read “Start Chating [SIC] Now!”
I was so surprised and appalled that I actually did click, because I wanted to know who the advertiser was behind this message. When I did, the next screen contained a warning that “this site may contain pictures of someone you know” and that I had to be at least 21 years old.
The advertiser appeared to be “best-daily-apps.com.”
Typically, the ads presented to me on WWF include brands like Ford or Toyota, or even other games, so I was truly stunned that Zynga had even agreed to allow this type of ad to appear — and immediately assumed that someone had fallen asleep in the sales department.
So, I went on LinkedIn, identified the Zynga CMO and sent her an InMail message questioning her on how this advertiser might reflect poorly on the Zynga brand, and inviting her to engage in a dialogue. Needless to say, she did not respond.
When I first started in the advertising business, there were rules as to what you could and couldn’t say in an ad — whether it was on TV, radio or in print. Those censors still exist today — as witnessed by the recent Lane Bryant spots that were deemed unsuitable for national networks ABC and NBC. It seems that partially-clad bodies of heavy-set women are inappropriate while next-to-nude Victoria’s Secret models are just fine.
Our agency was recently challenged by Pandora on a radio spot we created for a local client. In it, an elderly grandma-type used foul language that was intentionally bleeped, so as to suggest the more colorful word, but even those bleeps were too much for the Pandora censor.
But who is policing games (from a publicly-held company, no less) or other online applications? In a marketplace that relies so heavily on advertising revenue, is there no limit on what’s acceptable? Have brands become so desperate for sales that anything goes?
Call me old, but I can no longer look at many of the online “news” sites because the digital advertising is often so prolific that I can’t read a complete reading article without getting a headache from all the advertising distractions. Call me a prude, but I don’t think Zynga should accept ads from questionable marketers like this one.
Or have brands lost their moral compass as they desperately attempt to reach their revenue goals?
I don’t know about you, but this experience with WWF has left me with a negative impression of the Zynga brand. At the very least, I question the wisdom of the Harvard grad who sits at the top of the marketing food chain.