Does it really ad up?

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Another fantastically cynical piece from Andrew Orlowski: I’m a walking billboard… bitch in response to the somewhat hyperbolic claims of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg that he’s reinvented advertising for the next 100 years.

In fact, there are three things that Facebook is doing:

  1. Letting brands have pages. Fair enough, we’ve seen this work well enough on MySpace and at least it’s all above board and we’re not going go get loads of made-up identities (‘flogs’). The reasoning is that users can then tell the world about their favorite bands, brands and celebrities. Nice idea but not quite sure how the marketers of engine oil and socks join that party. And let us not forget the sad fate of Burberry. Do brands really want everyone’s endorsement!? Plus, as Orlwoski points out, a lot of the early conversations are between a brands’ most enthusiastic (read: mentally ill or paid) customers and the brands’ corporate lawyers. For example, take a look at Coca-cola’s 500 fans(!!) who’ve signed up for this nonsense (graphic at top of post). 90% fake, 100% uninteresting. I’ll bet you my rotten teeth that that page doesn’t last till Christmas.
  2. Social ads: this is targeting. And the scenario is simple. Let’s say I want to sell 10,000 copies of Nik Kershaw’s Greatest Hits. Now I can target my ads to just those people who say they like Nik Kershaw, or those who’ve joined a related group, or those that grew up in the 80s, or those who wet the bed etc.
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    Apparently, ‘Facebook Social Ads allow your businesses to become part of people’s daily conversations’, perhaps as in ‘I wish Blockbuster would stop putting these f*cking ads in my Facebook newsfeed’.
  3. A new thing called ‘beacons’. This is interesting stuff and something a lot of us have been talking about for a while. It allows actions outside of FB get into the news feed there. For Facebook it’s more content, for its users, it’s even more news (and intermittent variable reinforcement!), for brands it’s a chance to make non-social actions social. ‘Tom has just bought a dodgy Nik Kershaw album’, ‘John has just signed up to Amazon prime’. It’ll be interesting to see how this one gets used.

At the moment, predicting the next three years of advertising seems hard enough. Certainly an element of it will be like this. But not all of it will be. A lot of these sorts of initiatives seem to overlook the fundamental changes brand owners must learn to live with, rather than just how they get their message out.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and have a conversation with  my favorite snack foods on Facebook.

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