Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Facebook Up Front

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There’s nothing like the looming shadow of the largest Internet-related IPO in history to bring out all the Debbie Downers.

Mind you, I’m in a two-day meeting in Raleigh with my teammates, so I’m supposed to be paying attention to what’s going on inside these four walls.  And I mostly am.

But, I simply could not ignore this headline sent to me via email by a fellow colleague (just to demonstrate the continued critical importance of personal word-of-mouth recommendations…I can’t find out everything from watching “The View”, now, can I?): GM To Stop Advertising On Facebook.

This on the first scroll of The Wall Street Journal this afternoon.

It would be easy enough to dismiss this headline considering the source, News Corporation, which owns the Journal, which is competing for essentially the same advertising dollars never mind that they also own that little used social network, MySpace, which once-upon-a-time was the bell of the social networking ball — but, it’s General Motors, the U.S.’ third largest advertiser in a critical category for advertising (automobiles).

According to the story, GM has spent some $40 million on its Facebook presence and plans to stop advertising there “after the company’s marketing executives determined their paid ads had little impact on consumers.” However, it also points out GM will continue to expand its use of marketing through Facebook’s pages, which is essentially free real estate.

In this case, it seems that the “owned” media is outpacing the “paid.”

On the other side of Madison Avenue, AP-CNBC recently conducted a poll that indicated more than half (57 percent) of Facebook users polled said they never click on ads or other sponsored content when they use the site. Only 4 percent say they often click on ads.

This isn’t exactly a canary in Facebook’s coal mine, however.

As I’ve tried to point out to my own troops, the shift in attention to the Facebook platform cannot be denied — U.S. Internet users now spend 20% of their surfing time there, and as Facebook creates more intersections between entertainment, retail, and commerce, I would expect that number to go up, not down!

So what if people don’t click on an ad for the new Escalade — there’s a pretty good chance a few millions of the right people saw those ads, and quite frankly, if folks’ attention is moving from the big screen to the small (and, via mobile, to the smaller), then the attention deficit economy must eventually witness the transition of ad dollars in some semblance of parity, which heretofore hasn’t happened.

It doesn’t escape my notice that this news emerges the very same week that the big broadcasters are holding their “upfronts,” where they try to sell their $60 billion of inventory as much in advance as possible for the next year to advertisers, their agencies, etc.

The New York Times’ Amy Chozick penned a piece today explaining some of the festivities at this year’s upfronts. An excerpt: “At the Fox Party on Monday, the judges for the show ‘MasterChef,’ Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich, will personally serve a menu that includes organic salmon ceviche and a deconstructed Caesar salad accompanied by brioche Twinkies.”

Fox will be serving “veal meatballs with black truffles” along with “Manhattan mules,” a combination of vodka, ginger beer, and lime.

Traditional advertising’s Rome is burning, so why not throw a cocktail party and drink mint juleps as the last vestiges of appointment programming disappear into the Nielsen viewer diary of history?

The dirty little secret is this: We’re entering into a world where the absence of data is going to be replace by an abundance of data.  Moving forward, Facebook’s problem with advertisers will not be whether or not they can share information about the platform’s advertising performance, but more importantly, which data, about which demographic, on what platform, etc.?

There will be more information than most advertisers can consume effectively, particularly those more schooled in Nielsen “set meters” than A/B splits and multivariate testing.

Yeah, sure, go ahead and pile on the new kid on the block.  Mark Zuckerberg’s about to take away those truffles and Manhattan mules and your annual party is moving from up front to out back.  I’d be mad, too.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the advertising world is changing, and the big screen is about to be replaced by one that will get smaller and smaller, but one that will be more and more valuable to marketers.

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