Meta Misses The Mark On Maintaining Privacy

Last week I wrote about the new Apple Data Privacy ad, noting how brilliant it was -- and how much of a blast to the digital advertising world.  This week, I feel the urge to comment on the Meta (that is, Facebook) ad called “Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found,” otherwise known as “Please, Please, Please Allow Us To Track You.”

The Meta ad has been out for around a month, and, in both tone and placement strategy, is clearly a response to Apple’s moves to squash third-party ad tracking.  I came across it during an ad buy on prime-time sports this past weekend, which is the same place I saw the Apple ad. 

The Meta ad attempts to take the path that tracking delivers personalized ads, and that personalized ads are fun for everyone!  This argument has been around for a long time.  I think I may have even helped personally start this argument when I was with BlueKai and Oracle.



I do believe a little bit of tracking is not a bad thing because it creates a more personalized experience with the web.

However, this ad is clunky at best in its attempt to stand on that hill and argue that case. It consists of a series of examples such as a woman who finds a vegan bakery and a dad served an ad for a tailor who’ll make his jeans look cool.  

And while the ad tries to make the case for leveraging data to personalize the experience, it also taps into the inherent problem with social media.  Social media overdoes everything!  It creates pressure for people to “fit in” (i.e. the uncool Dad being judged by “mean Moms”).  So the ad further establishes social media as nothing but a shallow playground for ads to be delivered to an addicted audience scrolling endlessly for something to fill a void.

I may be hard on Meta.  It does have a second part that says we can use social media to “show the world we care about issues” -- which boils down to buying eco-safe sponges. The ad is, in fact, the single best parody of social media that I have ever seen. 

Maybe I am being too hard.  Maybe it is actually brilliant!  Maybe Meta is being all meta by poking fun at itself through a multimillion-dollar ad buy in the hope that people will agree that targeting them with their own data is A-OK? 

Nope.  I turned right around when I heard the line “A world where personalized ads help good ideas get found.”   I am more convinced after seeing the ad a few times through (both long and short form) that this might be the razziest ad of the year and a clear sign of desperation from a company whose single largest revenue stream has been shut down by Apple in one fell swoop.  Consumers will not be swayed by this ad.  They won’t be swayed to go back into Facebook and opt in when they’ve likely already opted out. 

Meta needs to take a different tactic to get its ad business back.  I’d suggest the company own up publicly to the role it play in society and assume some responsibility for swinging the pendulum to where it is today.  We are creating a generation of materialistic children who really only care about how they look, what others think about them, and where they can buy the next trendy piece of clothing or whatever. 

Meta could embrace the downturn of ads against it and try to find a way to be a more productive piece of the social media equation.  Create a fair and balanced, reciprocally beneficial relationship with the audience.  Convince me that I should allow you to use my data in return for some of those billions of dollars being put to use in helping cure society of what ails it.  Help get kids to balance their time online with time offline. 

Meta could take a lesson from the NFL with its NFL Play 60 initiative to get kids to play outside for 60 minutes (minimum) everyday.  Provide people with social media ways to get together in person.  Maybe partner with MeetUp to create real-world engagement and get out of the purely online realm.

Don’t try to convince me that personalized ads will save the world by making me buy an eco-friendly sponge to clean my dishes.  That is a sad excuse for a sustainable future.

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