Why businesses are afraid to advertise on Facebook, in one picture

"Advertisers are for users, too," reads one sign at Facebook HQ. Right.

Several versions of this advertisement have been unavoidable in my Facebook feed lately:


Clearly, Facebook "is getting serious about making money," according to a Wall Street Journal report from last month. 

The above is only a single data point, but here are three reasons why the approach illustrated above is troublesome for the leading social network:

1.) This is a low-quality, cheap-sell advertisement that reflects poorly on everyone. They certainly work on some level, but there's a reason you only see these on late night television and crammed in the back pages of lesser publications: they hurt the brand that runs them, and they don't pay as well as a big, full-bleed Bacardi ad. Lowbrow? OK. Low quality? No way.

2.) Despite the reams of personal data I've willingly given Facebook, I can safely say that I am in no way the target audience here, short of being male. Yet here we are.

3.) Advertisers large and small will always want to reach more people, even if those people are entirely irrelevant. The most useful tool a publisher has is the word "no," best used to protect and preserve the audience it has assembled, rather than send them running away to a competitor. Here, incremental revenue won out.

I'm all for Facebook pursuing revenue and profitability, and we've seen with Google's highly lucrative AdWords offerings ($42.5 billion in 2012) that highbrow doesn't always win the day. (Actual recent Google AdWords ad viewed on a search results page: Get Instant Support By Expert Now ! Call To Speak With a Expert Now !‎)

But take heed, Facebook: the reason daily deals service LivingSocial is contracting is because it started by proudly offering half-price luxury spa treatments and now spams your inbox with deals for laser toe fungus removal.

I'm no CMO, but I suspect that an ad for "1 Ripped Muscle Secret" that involves "Amazing New Supplements" isn't something that Facebook executives want include in the sales presentation.


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