You’ve probably noticed a critical mass of “mafia” game ads on your Facebook profile lately. This near ubiquity is thanks to the insane success of Mafia and Farmville app developers Zynga, who are allegedly pulling down $500,000 a day in virtual products revenue. They are, in turn, funneling much of their money back into Facebook ads, around $50M a year at this rate. Facebook’s happy, Zynga’s really happy, and those millions of people playing these apps are happy.
But what about the rest of us? How will Facebook’s brand be affected when its most successful app developer is also its top ad buyer? It reminds me of an Interpol concert I attended in 2005, when I realized I was surrounded by frat guys in the audience. You can’t choose your audience, and you can’t begrudge the success they’ve given you. Or can you? This is the kind of development that ruins platforms’ long-term health. Also known as the “MySpace Homepage Effect” (roadblocking the login screen with whatever News Corp. movie/TV/music product needing ad saturation that week).