The funny thing about all the talk about the revolution in marketing is that it generally hasn’t taken into account that every major marketing communications channel that has ever existed has basically been a broadcast channel. Even on the Internet.
The implications of this are pretty straightforward. It’s hard to shift from a broadcast mentality to something else if the opportunities to do so are limited.
Facebook, on the other hand, represents (for all it’s recent travails) the world’s first mass relationships medium. The problem is that from a marketing communications perspective I’m not entirely sure they’ve figured out what to do with this yet.
Advertising on Facebook today is a surprisingly weak proposition. I’m not really surprised that GM decided to pull theirs.
You have essentially two choices:
- You pay for display ads that live off to the side and that few, if anyone ever click on. Supposedly highly targeted to people’s preferences, I’ve yet to see one of these that made any sense whatsoever to me.
- You piggyback on an individual’s “like” of your brand, message or product and this becomes a sponsored “story” which in effect becomes the ad creative. This is very innovative, and Facebook claim a much higher recall rate for this kind of messaging because it comes from a “friend”. My belief, however, is that this recall will rapidly decline as people begin to realize that their ‘likes’ are being used for this purpose.
The problem with both of these approaches, however, is that they do little or nothing to reinforce the relationships strength of the platform. Ironically, both methods are locked into a broadcast mindset. And worse, neither of them add any real value to the consumer. (And arguably the newer ‘sponsored stories’ approach does the opposite)
As a direct comparator, the reason Google Ad-Words is so effective, so popular and such a huge revenue driver for Google is that it absolutely leverages the underlying strengths of the platform. When I am doing a search, I am specifically interested in a topic. To have targeted advertising based on what I’m looking for makes perfect sense. To have these ads appear as innocuously and helpfully as they do is possible the smartest UI decision Google ever got right.
Facebook today is nowhere near having their equivalent of Google Ad-Words.
On Facebook, the most impressive marketing R&D is actually being done by the brands themselves and not by Facebook as such. To take just a single example, I’m particularly impressed by what Ticketmaster launched in January.
Essentially they are connecting the relationship dots. They recommend upcoming shows based upon your Spotify listening habits, they allow you to share shows you want to go and see, as well as shows where you’ve already bought tickets. If you’ve bought tickets, your friends can see where your seats are and buy their own tickets for seats nearby. And vice versa. All from within the Facebook platform.
Not surprisingly, Ticketmaster state that this has become an incredibly powerful platform for them, with significant ROI.
This is just a single example, but a very good one, of a brand leveraging the underlying relationships strength of the Facebook platform in a much more effective and consumer friendly way than Facebook itself has.
Worryingly for Facebook, the tools Ticketmaster use to do this are currently given away for free. Their income only coming from a percentage of the on-platform sales.
The joy of this approach is that for the first time we are creating advertising that gets close to Peter Drucker’s ideal of marketing that gets a customer ready to buy, rather than marketing designed to sell.
And this is the crux. Rather than the broadcast mentality, what brands increasingly need is the ability to leverage the relationships potential of Facebook in ways that add value to their customers and that makes relevant purchasing behavior more convenient. Do this well and everyone wins.
This would suggest that the future of advertising on Facebook should lie less in solutions rooted in a broadcast philosophy, and more in solutions rooted in a relationships driven one.
The great thing for them, of course, is how many brands are already building on their platform and essentially engaging in R&D behavior on their behalf.
Of course, the need to do this is not just because the existing advertising approach has limited potential, but because the existing advertising approach doesn’t work at all on mobile. And mobile is increasingly where people are choosing to access the Facebook platform.
Put simply, the mobile environment demands a shift in mindset. And while the details are a topic for a different day, I’d argue that the mobile environment should accelerate the shift from a broadcast to a relationships mentality, rather than slow it down.
But we’ll see where it all ends up. I’m pretty bullish on Facebook to succeed. They’ve overcome every previous obstacle, so I hope their current troubles don’t lead them down a more short-sighted path.