Facebook Is Not The Super Bowl

by , Dec 2, 2013, 8:00 AM
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Facebook video advertising is the latest shiny object that has the media planning and buying industry entranced. Facebook has more than a billion users: #advertising_genius, #world_domination!

Calm down, junior. Facebook is not the Super Bowl. If you know what’s good for you and your clients, you don’t want it to be. 

Facebook executives have been pitching the big-game analogy for years when it comes to getting ad people whipped up about the platform’s potential reach. But that’s all it is -- “potential” reach. They should stop with the grandiose rhetoric already. As digital advertising buyers, we don’t *heart* the mass reach. We love targeting. Sell us targeted video, and we’ll give you standing budgets. Sell us untargeted masses with minimum spending requirements, and we’ll wander away just as before (see: iAd).

The nature of Facebook’s utility is personal. People use it to hone in on topics and people they care about, not the entire world. Facebook is a personal experience, and the advertising within it should complement the usage. 

According to its latest earnings trends, Facebook’s advertising (which uses pretty good targeting technology) is adding up and sending the stock in the right direction. Once testing of the video product is complete, the word is that Facebook will bring it to market with huge spending minimums and lame targeting like gender only. 

Why? Why not allow the same targeting that is successful with display and marketplace? Why sell it with budget mandates that will price Facebook out of 95 percent of all advertisers’ interest? Why make it mass? Is it because that’s how TV is sold?  Facebook is not TV. Media executives want to buy TV in a more targeted fashion too. Change is coming, and Facebook should lead, not follow TV’s outdated mass marketplace. Advertisers and Facebook can and should work together to change the marketplace.

Here’s what video advertisers should demand from Facebook before committing their budgets. 

·  Targeting before mass reach. Facebook, sell us what we want. Sell us what already works. We don’t buy Facebook for hundreds of millions in one day. Be patient and let us use your platform for what it does best: Serving up targeted audiences and their friends. Sell it to us now with video.

·  No TV paradigm. Buying video does not mean we should use TV’s marketplace paradigm right out of the chute. If you do a Facebook “upfront,” we’ll laugh at you. Facebook has more than a billion members worldwide. An upfront only works when you have a limited supply of inventory to sell. Does anyone really believe that Facebook will sell out of inventory? Don’t be ridiculous. Some advertisers will want to reach millions in a short period of time for product launches, movie releases and such, but that won’t bring long-term revenue growth. Opening video advertising up to smaller marketers with modest budgets will serve Facebook best in the long run.

·  Work with us on message formats so we get it right the first time and avoid poisoning the well by angering Facebook users. Right now, the industry believes it can get away with running a TV spot in digital environments. Facebook should lead by example and help us craft brand stories in a format that works on its platform. A 15-second TV spot will not play well in this environment. We’ll likely need to adapt our messaging to a more personal, serial approach (sequencing or teasing more in-depth viewing after a click).

·  Set up a trial program that proves to us what works. Work with some partners to show us the way, do some in-house ads that prove we can’t take the easy way out and cut down a 30-second spot. If Facebook accepts TV ads right away, we’ll all take the easy way out and run ads that users scroll past.

Video ads put Facebook at a crossroads in advertising history. It’s not wise for Facebook to simply sell advertisers another ad on an environment “as big as” the Super Bowl. We don’t want one. We don’t need one. We want to use Facebook’s platform for what it does best: To create messages that will be seen, shared and enjoyed by friends. Not skipped by millions.

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