In the fast-moving world of social platforms, Facebook and Twitter are now part of the establishment and using TV advertising to fend off new and innovative rivals.

This post is by Gearóid Godson, MEC.

Facebook's 'the friends' campaign has been on our tV screens as well as billboards sincemarch of this year. I'm sure you've all seen it. At first glance, it is the TV aspect of this campaign that seems a bit of an anomaly on the advertising ecosystem – one of the main pillars of the 'new' media sphere falling back on one of the oldest advertising mediums to get its message out to the public.

What does Facebook have to gain from the ads?

The latest GlobalWebIndex data shows that 78.4% of UK adults have a Facebook account – a figure that is close to saturation point. At this stage, any growth in this figure is likely to be minimal. So if growth isn't the main focus, what is? Well, when we look at the 'active usage' figures, we can start to see the reasoning behind Facebook's investment.

Currently, the UK figure for active membership is at 54%*. More logins equals more people who can have advertising served to them by Facebook. This, we presume, is the thinking behind the 'friends' aspect of a mass advertising campaign, reminding people what it is about Facebook that got them to sign up in the first place.

By reminding the audience of their value, Facebook are also combating a perceived generational shift away from the network.those under the age of 25 will have grown-up with the platform in their lives and there are signs that they are becoming weary of it. According to GWI data, a massive 53% of 16–24 year-olds claim to be using Facebook less than they used to, with just 35% saying their usage has remained the same or gone up. Among this audience, a new wave of predominantly app-based networks is gaining prominence. Snapchat has come from nowhere in 2015 to its current position where 40% of 16–24 year-olds are active users. Likewise, Instagram counts 36% of this audience as active users. Young people are spending less time on Facebook in favour of networks that enable them to interact with their friends in a fun, visually appealing way. Apps such as Instagram and Snapchat are perfect for this. Facebook has been planning for this over the past couple of years with its acquisition of WhatsApp, as well as its increased focus on its Messenger app. Despite owning these considerable assets in the messaging market, Facebook still recognises the importance of maintaining the relevancy of its platform.

Twitter moments
Twitter: its 'moments' TV commercial aimed to highlight the real-time nature of the platform

In October this year, we also saw Twitter making its first move into TV advertising. It premiered a commercial in support of its new 'moments' feature during live coverage of baseball's World Series in the US. It is far clearer to see what Twitter would have to gain from such campaigns. Twitter has recently been struggling to attract new users to the platform and there is evidence that current users are slowly turning away. Twitter's global user numbers have remained stubbornly stagnant over the past year and the number of active users in the UK has actually dropped from 9.6 million to 9.4 million between Q3 2014 and 2015 (GWI). The 'moments' feature that was highlighted in its TV ad is Twitter's attempt to address a recurring criticism that the service is too complicated for people to take up and start using without being familiar with it. The ad that aired highlighted this feature, using the ongoing baseball game to highlight the real-time nature of the platform, which remains Twitter's greatest selling point.

It has been interesting to watch the shift in the advertising behaviour of these two brands. In the fast-moving world of social platforms they are now part of the establishment and facing new challenges in fending off new and innovative platforms. Turning to TV for their advertising is an obvious choice for reaching the masses with their messages.

*Active membership is defined as somebody who logs into their account at least once a month