Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk has spent years creating award-winning advertisements to motivate buyers. Facebook's ad platform simply reaffirms that individuals are media.
Everything is now a pair of boxer’s shorts. Even Facebook.
When Mike Tyson was around those shorts, if they had a brand name at all, would only bear the name of the company that made them. (Usually, it was, and I always thought this especially rich after a knockout, Everlast.)
Now, if there’s some real estate on the crotch or on the derriere, we’ll sell it to the highest bidder.
Look at all those desperate cyclists, amateurs, who clog up our streets on a Sunday morning. They are actually paying to wear brand names all over their skintight EPO-injector’s gear. As if wearing the U.S. Postal Service’s logo will make them go faster.
It doesn’t work for the mail and it’s not going to work for you.
It’s bad enough with sports gear, but walk down any street in the world and you will see real human beings paying to advertise anything from Diesel to Carhartt to Levis to John Deere to Coke to American Apparel (Yes, everyone who looks like a pornographer is advertising American Apparel.).
It used to be that a medium was, you know, one of those things like a newspaper or a radio station.
Now individuals are media, just as much as they are individuals.
If you make yourself fair game, and you have, how can you be surprised that Facebook has chosen to rent out its pages to advertisers desperate to get in touch with Facebookers, especially those they think are particularly influential (you know, maybe they know Bono)?
Oh, yes, you can whine about the fact that you have to agree to be friends with a brand before you can discover what it might have to offer, but what have you been doing for the last thirty years? Guess what? You’ve been allowing brands to cuddle up to you and tickle your sensitive parts beyond all reasonable, rational sense.
You believe and trust in brands because somehow they have found a way to make you feel good. Either about yourself, or about their world.
You believe that if you wear Prada, your chances of getting, I believe the polite phrase for either sex these days is ‘booty’ on a Friday night are at least 40 percent greater than if you slip on a little something from, say, Old Navy.
You trust that if Nike emails you something, it’s bound to be cool and by allowing it to travel to more gullibles, that cool will reflect on you.
And you claim to be oblivious to all those brands that appear in just the same cool media that you feel you should be seen to be clutching, watching, reading and feeding.
It’s not Facebook who has sold out. It’s you.
How can it be that you can love a national sport that has the ball in play for perhaps ten minutes, and commercials in play for at least an hour?
How can you see nothing wrong in something that is politely referred to as a TV time out in a college basketball game, when you know it’s simply an opportunity for folks at home to be enticed by a potato chip while you sit and gawk at eighteen-year-olds in lycra dancing to LL Cool J?
What are you really afraid of if Facebook is suddenly populated by brands that have been pretty good to you over the years?
Just as so many people talk about their own brand, meaning themselves (Paris Hilton is one of the cleverest and, in some ways, saddest brand launches we have seen in the last ten years), brands have come to realize that they are really people.
In many ways, they fulfill roles that people have found lacking in themselves and others.
So the only question about Facebook’s very interesting step towards the commercial world is this: Will it mean that we get far more lovable, engaging, intelligent, clever, noteworthy work out of advertising agencies? (Amongst which, I suppose, we should now count Microsoft.)
For too long, advertising has struggled like a nun in a bordello to find new formulas, new ideas, new ways, new voices to attract people who seem to be able to find their entertainment in so many different places and in so many different ways.
You won’t change. But the advertising flung at you just might.
The wonderful opportunity for Facebookers is that if an advertiser fails to deliver something worthy of the site you don’t have to defend them. You defriend them. And how many advertisers are going to enjoy that?
Chris Matyszczyk has spent most of his career as an award-winning creative director in the advertising industry. He advises major global companies on marketing and creativity. Chris has also been a journalist, covering the Olympics, SuperBowl and other sporting events. He brings a non-techie's perspective to the tech world and a sharp wit to the rest of the world. Check out his "Pond Culture" blog.