Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Former Facebook Ad Head Mike Murphy Takes Senior Advisor Role at Zynga

Mike Murphy–Facebook’s first head of advertising sales, who left the social networking giant in October to take some personal time off–seems done with relaxing.

He is now taking a part-time, but significant, role at online gaming phenom Zynga to help formulate its advertising strategy.

In addition, Murphy is also close to formalizing a consulting relationship with Facebook.

Given there has been strong interest from more obvious Facebook competitors in retaining Murphy–including Google and Twitter–his move to Zynga is probably the best outcome for it.

Although the relationship has been tense at times, Zynga remains one of Facebook’s major strategic partners.

Facebook has reportedly been close to filling Murphy’s job, talking to several major online ad execs recently, but has not yet replaced him.

While it is not clear what Murphy will be doing for Facebook, where former Google exec David Fischer runs the ad business, Murphy’s role at Zynga will be quite deep and could expand over time even more.

It will include overseeing the development of Zynga’s advertising strategy, team growth and advertising products, and creating new relationships with top brands.

After being contacted by BoomTown about the new job, Murphy confirmed it and said in a statement:

“Social games are becoming a core way for marketers to engage with their customers. Zynga’s network of games have created an incredible opportunity for advertisers to create passionate relationships and emotional connections with their customers.”

Indeed, as it moves toward an inevitable IPO later this year, Zynga is upping its focus on building its advertising business, aiming at selling its fast-growing audience and the frequency and engagement they use its casual gaming products.

At Zynga, Murphy will lead and build the team, scaling its relationships with big-name partners.

The company has already dipped its toe in this arena, integrating some major brands into its games in recent campaigns.

Such online-offline customer efforts, although early, have had strong adoption, such as a recent one to plant branded blueberry crops–organic!–in its flagship FarmVille game for General Mills cereals.

There has also been a McDonald’s-branded farm in FarmVille. (McReally.)

Interestingly, in an inside-Silicon-Valley-baseball way, the move to Zynga will reunite Murphy, the former Yahoo exec who ran global advertising strategy for Facebook for five years, with Owen Van Natta.

Van Natta was once COO of Facebook and hired Murphy there. He is now EVP of Business at Zynga.

Along with Murphy, Van Natta has also brought in Dani Dudeck as communications head from Myspace, where he had a rocky tenure as CEO of the News Corp. unit.

And Katie Geminder, who was a design and user interface exec at both Facebook and Myspace, is also now at Zynga in a similar full-time role.

At the time he announced his departure from Facebook in the fall, Murphy said he had decided to step down in order to take some personal time off, noting that hundreds of nights on the road over the years had been enough.

“For the last five years of hyper-growth here, I have been focused on Facebook,” said Murphy. “Now, I felt it was time to shift that focus to my family.”

And now, apparently, to Zynga.