New Ad Strategy Spells 'End of Mass Media,' Claims Facebook

08 November 2007

NEW YORK: The advent of the printing press spelled the end of calligraphy; electricity of gas; the internal combustion engine of horses; movies of theater; and TV of radio. Right?

Wrong! As Facebook ceo Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) was probably well aware when, in hype overdrive, he claimed that his new advertising system Facebook Ads signals the end of mass advertising.

Plus ça change, plus ça même chose,' as adland greybeards never tire of telling.

In a presentation to advertisers and agencies earlier this week, Zuckerberg explained how the 50 million-member social network seeks to combine interest-based and demographic-targeting with peer recommendations.

"Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend," Zuckerberg evangelized, calling peer recommendations "the Holy Grail of advertising."

But what sends investors' salivary glands into overdrive is that Facebook is eyeing a far greater segment of the ad market than the direct-response business dominated by Google.

The company estimates that so-called "demand-generation" advertising will blossom into a $400 billion (€274.82bn; £191.76bn) market.

Facebook's free company pages are Zuckerberg's McGuffin. These can be set-up free by advertisers, mimicking the site's user-profile pages and featuring applications, information, videos and other content.

Online users will opt, he hopes, to be "fans" of the various brands, allowing advertisers to send them messages or add applications.

Facebook is launching with 100,000 company profile pages. These pages will replace the "sponsored groups" it currently sells to brands.

Advertisers will target ads based on both demographic data - such as age and gender - and interest categories like movies, music and books, with payment based either by the number of impressions or click-throughs. The targeting criteria will be expanded.

However, the great imponderable is users' reaction to the new system. Zuckerberg admits that members will not be able to opt out of having their photos and recommendations appear in ads if they interact with brand profiles.

But Facebook, he said will hear from its users if they have objections. "We'll see if they come up and we'll react quickly to that," he promised.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff