What Our Charlie Sheen Obsession Has to Do With Facebook #Winning Display Ads

Oh, Twitterati. You are not as intellectual as you Sheen -- I mean seem. 

I've been appalled at the fact I've actually caught people such as @ShellyKramer and @Jason, tweeting about Sheen today because everyone seems to want in on this one.  Hell, I found out that Sheen had an official Twitter account from Benjamin Palmer on Tumblr. Sad.

I mean really, people! Have we all lost our minds along with Sheen? Apparently so, because, I, too, decided to follow Sheen yesterday and wondered aloud on Twitter this morning whether his next career move was a reality show. Or, given his Piers Morgan/TMZ/Today Show/Good Morning America press binge over the last few days, whether we are already watching it.

But, seriously folks, while none of what Sheen is going through is particularly funny, it is nonetheless another great example of how -- and why  social media is taking over, a point that was brought home yesterday by eMarketer, which predicted - um, predictably - that this year Facebook will overtake Yahoo in what has been Yahoo's revenue bread-and-butter: display ads.



The company expects Facebook to account for more than a fifth of all display ads domestically in 2011, or 21.6%, a jump of more than 80%. That's particularly noteworthy when one realizes that, from an increasingly visual perspective, Facebook display ads don't hold a candle to most of what you see on Yahoo. It's an object lesson in the fact that targeting and word-of-mouth increasingly trumps Flash. When I see that a few of my Facebook friends "Like" something, I'm at least intrigued; sometimes I even click. Even though plenty of ads on old-style sites are animated, they seem oddly static when compared to ads that my friends have given the thumbs-up.

So was that Sheen-to-display-ads transition clunky? Here's why it shouldn't be. The fact is that, for better or worse, when it comes to a phenomenon like Sheen, nearly all of the media many of us consume surrounding it is social - particularly if you view blogs as being social, as I do. To me, it's all self-publishing, with Twitter being haiku to blogging's novellas.

There are the Facebook posts I just came across: to a YouTube video of a Jimmy "Kimmel Kartoon" with Sheen's quotes dubbed into a Charlie Brown cartoon, and Sheen quotes used as captions for famous New Yorker cartoons; the link shared in a friend's status in Gmail to That Twitter account, now at over 800,000 users and counting. You'll note that most of that content, with the exception of Kimmel, is itself user-generated. Social media provides not just the distribution, but also the bits being distributed.

And where is Yahoo (or for that matter, Aol or MSN) in this? Sure, Yahoo lists Sheen as a trending topic, but the home page seems like a parallel universe where the conversation that seems to dominate social networks is muted. While there should be room in this world for editors -- who select which content makes the home page -- it's a sign of why the roads between the portals and the social nets are diverging. In one, the world is seen through the looking glass of a select few; in the other, the world is seen through the looking glass of a mob. The mob appears to be winning.

8 comments about "What Our Charlie Sheen Obsession Has to Do With Facebook #Winning Display Ads".
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  1. Kate Lafrance from Hartford Woman Online Magazine, March 2, 2011 at 3:54 p.m.

    I've OD'd on Sheen. He's a sad guy who is too out if it to know how much help he needs.

  2. Judy Bellem, March 2, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.

    The news media is fascinated with stories of the down-trodden and the public voraciously relishes every morsel... for the moment anyway. For the record, National Public Radio (NPR) is not beholding in any way to advertisers as there are none.

    Time will tell whether Facebook ads overtake Yahoo News in popularity (and revenue). If Facebook continues to grow at its current rate, this most likely will happen.

  3. Shelly Kramer from V3 Integrated Marketing, March 2, 2011 at 5:28 p.m.

    Hey Catharine,

    As you might remember, I'm a long time fan of yours and a frequent sharer of your content - which I think is usually terrific. In this instance, to read a post that starts the fact that you're appalled by my behavior is, well, more than a little unsettling.

    If you had read the content I tweeted, you would see it was sharing a blog post that was talking about Sheen and the fact that he is probably suffering from bipolar disorder and really needs help. It wasn't making fun or dissing him or putting him down in any way - it was actually focused on what the real issues are - or probably are.

    I'm particularly attuned to this because I have a number of clients in the addiction treatment and mental health fields and I think the situation that Charlie has found himself in is profoundly sad. And while it apparently makes great fodder for all kinds of jokes, cartoons, videos and the like, it also is a bit like a runaway train speeding toward a pretty certain disaster. If you had read my Twitter stream before calling me out on this issue, you would have also seen many times where I have had conversations with friends remarking about how sad the situation is.

    So, while the rest of your post is about the hypothesis that the mob is winning (with which I agree) please note that the content I shared was not what you assumed was another joke - it was a serious post about someone with serious problems. It's attached here if you'd like to take a minute and actually read it.

    Bottom line, I'm a huge fan of a great many MediaPost publications and, as mentioned, largely a big fan of your content as well. Next time that I run across my name in your publication, I hope it will be as a result of something well-researched and accurate instead of the alternative.



  4. Bruce May from Bizperity, March 3, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.

    At last someone has finally called out social media for what it is…. a mob. While we can all be inspired by the political revolutions that are being driven by social media we should be a little cautious when embracing the mob mentality that social media lets loose on the world. Democracy has been described as a “tyranny of the mob.” That’s why we have a constitution and a supreme court to help protect the individual from mob opinion. What kinds of structural protections are built into social media? Maybe we should start thinking about that.

  5. Benjamin Palmer from The Barbarian Group, March 3, 2011 at 12:01 p.m.

    haha. when I posted the link to @charliesheen it was during that magical 6 or so hours when he was gaining ~5k followers a minute and hadn't tweeted once. I was REALLY hoping that was going to last for a few days, just like 0 to 1MM with not a single tweet, some kind of twitter-swami trick.

    He is a professional comedian, and he's doing some amazing standup-interviews and obviously was planning his twitter appearance for a while and seeding the media with tweet size phrases.

    It would be interesting to do a good vs evil case study with charlie sheen as the bad guy and jimmy fallon as the nice guy and see how their online ROI compares

  6. Michele Ching from Outrigger Media, March 3, 2011 at 6:21 p.m.

    To your point, I think the divergence between search portals and social networks is inevitable, if not already assumed. Because Yahoo controls the content on their HP and has to answer to advertiser clients, it's likely that they don't care to have their editors curate/feature a topic that their audience will seek out information on themselves. Furthermore, because the content has such a negative association, the opportunity to monetize on it isn't as great; probably causing the "muting" of the story on their HP.

  7. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, March 4, 2011 at 3:46 a.m.

    Kate: I know what you mean but it's hard for most men to seriously feel a guy living in a harem with two beautiful women "needs help", especially since California divorce law makes that safer to his assets than being married. His Twitter escapade is only helping him on his current quest to get five million per episode doing something more interesting than 2.5 Men. Males 18-35 love the guy more than ever now. That's is smart marketing (even if I do severely disapprove of the drug use).

  8. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, March 4, 2011 at 12:42 p.m.

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the comments. Benjamin, I love the idea of a Fallon/Sheen faceoff. Fallon may not be as,um, dramatic as Sheen but he's quite viral, as they say.

    Also wanted to do a shout-out to Shelly to at least explain myself, so here goes. Maybe, there's a teachable moment in here, as our tweetstreams become increasingly difficult to navigate.

    Anyway, I think what we're dealing with, at its heart, is that we all tend to read tweets in isolation -- which I did in this case -- though I did scroll down through at least 50 tweets in my tweetstream as I was writing the column the other day to see what people were saying and didn't see any others from you about you-know-who. In analyzing this yesterday, I understand why. First, my source material was a tweet I saw of yours that didn't contain any of the issues you eloquently outline in your comment here. It read like this:

    RT @TheDudeDean: @roncallari @CharlieSheen knows how to get the Jelly on BOTH sides of the peanut butter on his PBJs cc @ShellyKramer

    If I go to your Twitter page, I now see there are several tweets that take a more serious tone, though they don't reference Sheen directly and are part of a conversation with someone who I don't follow, making the contextual issues even harder. Even if I had seen them yesterday, I couldn't have been sure that's who you were talking about -- ah the limits of 140 characters.

    I went out of my way to point out I'd been swept along by it too. It's only fair, after all. That was done expressly to blunt any misunderstanding that might be had in the paragraph in which I mention you.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding, and for any upset this has caused you. Tweet on, all!


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