Madison Avenue to Facebook: you'll never be the next Google

On Facebook, the ads, despite all the innovation, still aren’t something users are really asking for

In a renewed attempt to woo Madison Avenue, Facebook is "making a huge push" at Advertising Week, an industry-wide series of events for media buyers and publishers, reports Valleywag. The social utility's "push" includes a full-page ad in the events program, a number of sponsored sessions, and throwing a party tonight in which Ziggy Marley (son of Bob) will be performing.

The motivation: Facebook has yet to turn its 100+ million user-base into a fertile ground for advertisers, with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly estimating revenue in 2008 to be around the $300 million mark

An unnamed New York ad-executive (via Valleywag) offers Facebook some unsolicited advice:

  • Stop creating gimmicky features that users don't want. Facebook is busy touting its so-called 'Engagement Advertising', whereby users can interact with ads by leaving comments, sharing virtual gifts, or becoming a 'fan'. Any interaction then shows up in a user's news feed. The unnamed executive's take: 'Instead of creating gimmicky features that users don't want, Facebook needs to come up with ways for advertisers to be seen as providing new functionality... Facebook should encourage users to feel like a site improvement was brought to them by a brand.' For example, Facebook's Video application could have been sponsored by Sony's CyberShot line, suggests the executive. There also exists a disconnect between Facebook's engineers who build new functionality for the site, and the company's ad sales team who work in isolation.
  • Hire some Madison Avenue insiders. According to Valleywag's source, 'Madison Avenue avoids spending money on MySpace because no one in New York knows its ad salespeople.' To avoid this problem, Facebook should hire a number of Madison Avenue insiders and put them in positions of influence.
  • You'll never be the next Google. Facebook isn't and never will be the 'automated moneymaking machine' that is Google. Running successful ad campaigns on the social utility 'require lots of creativity, planning and customization', something that can't be left to a computer algorithm. The sooner Facebook accepts that it isn't the next Google, 'the sooner it can take advantage of its massive, desirable user base.'

Why Facebook will never be the next Google

As Scott Karp brilliantly explains, Google perfectly aligns "advertiser value" and "user value", in the way its search advertising model operates.

On Google, when you search for something, the adds are a form of search result — i.e. something you asked for, that you opted in to receive.

Ask yourself how many times you've clicked on a 'Sponsored Link' when doing a Google search. I know I have, lots of times.

In comparison, how many times have you clicked on an ad displayed in Facebook.

Never? Me neither.


On Facebook, the ads, despite all the innovation, still aren’t something users are really asking for.

... you can insert your ad into news about peoples’ friends. You can let people share their shopping habits with their friends. And you can, as a company/brand, be “friends” with your consumers.

Karp says that "if you read between the lines, it’s really the same value proposition as traditional advertising — advertisers forcing themselves on users", thereby creating little or no value for users.

That's a big problem to solve, and one that isn't unique to ads on Facebook.