Offerpal Media, one of the companies at the center of a bitter dispute over misleading advertisements on social networks, on Thursday launched a revised policy designed to "forbid any offers that are misleading, deceptive or otherwise objectionable."
Companies like Offerpal are enlisted by many of the big gaming companies built on social networks like Facebook; they help those companies make money by letting game players earn points and virtual goods by completing offers and surveys rather than paying real money.
They make a lot of money doing so. So do the game companies, like Zynga and Playfish (recently acquired by Electronic Arts), which in turn advertise heavily on the likes of Facebook to recruit new players.
But then the negative press started to emerge: many of these "free" offers and surveys actually had hidden costs attached to them that weren't adequately disclosed. Some companies like Zynga started backtracking and going so far as to ban offers altogether. Facebook and MySpace, the two biggest social-network platforms, made very public revisions to their policies. But the controversy continued, and both Facebook and Zynga were named as defendants in a federal class-action lawsuit.
Offerpal, which replaced its CEO amid the controversy, has now come out and said that while it's setting a basic standard for advertisement quality, game makers and publishers enlisting Offerpal's services can opt to be even more stringent. "Offerpal will rate all offers by quality and allow its partners to select a quality level of compliance ranging from 'Level 1' for minimal restrictions to 'Level 5' for highly conservative restrictions," a release explained.
Will the new restrictions keep angry bloggers and consumers--not to mention lawmakers--at bay? More importantly, are they going to amount to anything more than smoke and mirrors? We'll see.