The self-service ad model may not be the secret to Facebook's future fortunes, but it presents marketers with some largely untapped opportunities for reaching the most precisely targeted audiences online.
If you talk to Facebook's users about advertising, you'll hear a number of criticisms. Some say it's brash or irrelevant. Many others don't notice it at all. I'd expect many consumers wouldn't even think of the best ads as advertising, such as those ads for TV show or movie premieres on the homepage where you RSVP if you're going. Some of the worst problems with the site's advertising have been minimized, such as those in my musings last summer on Facebook's 'Jewhavioral' targeting and overly personal weight loss ads.
Forrester's Marketing Forum last month provided me with an excuse to run another ad trial, as I demoed the platform to an attendee during a break and wound up creating a live campaign. I was covering the event as a blogger (read the roundup), so I had something to offer. Here are a few things I learned in the process. You can view screen shots from the campaign on Flickr or SlideShare.
After going through the process as an advertiser, I'm reminded of how relevant the advertising can be for consumers. Advertisers know a lot about me from the site, and they can infer a lot more. Fans of "30 Rock," Christopher Guest movies, and Jonathan Safran Foer books living in New York probably would welcome hearing about restaurants in the city's theater district. The cost of testing these ads is negligible; for around $15, I amassed over 25,000 impressions, which is plenty of information should I choose to use it for another campaign.
Self-service ads won't be the best option for running a major branding campaign on Facebook. The engagement ads on the homepage serve that purpose. With this kind of targeting, though, I'll fork over that quarter per click when there's a reason to reach a segment of Facebook's audience.