Facebook: Not an Ad Platform but an Ecosystem

Now that Facebook is a publicly traded company with shareholders to satisfy, the ongoing question of whether it will ever live up to its promise as an advertising platform becomes more urgent.

Vincent Blaney, Account Director, Millward Brown Media Practice

While display advertising does account for approximately 80 percent of Facebook revenue, and advertisers continue to add Facebook to their online media plans, marketers and commentators are divided on its efficacy. For example, in the run-up to the Facebook IPO, General Motors announced that they were discontinuing display advertising on Facebook, while in the wake of that announcement, both Ford and Coca-Cola separately expressed their intentions to continue to use the platform.

But in assessing the value of Facebook to advertisers, to focus narrowly on the impact of Facebook display may well be missing the point.

The real power of Facebook is realized when it is viewed and utilized not just as another display channel but as a rich social ecosystem that provides unparalleled opportunities for consumer engagement. Advertisers that understand the nuances of this system can deploy fan pages, Facebook display advertising, and other marketing channels to great synergistic effect.

Getting to Grips with Facebook

It’s not really surprising that advertisers have struggled to understand the opportunity that Facebook offers. Facebook takes some getting used to, whether you are a user or an advertiser. New users of Facebook—especially those over 40—are often confused by the multi-faceted communication tool, which combines familiar functions like email, IM, and photo-sharing with the ability to broadcast news, comment on news from others, and play games. But people try it because their friends (or their kids) are using it, and they don’t want to be left out.

And so brands were also eager to leap in first and figure out the benefits later. They recognized that Facebook was something new and different, and they were ready to approach it in the same adventurous spirit as its new users. As people flocked to Facebook to have fun and connect with others, advertisers recognized that it was a place where they could connect too. They needed to evolve along with their customers in order to stay relevant. As Coca-Cola marketing chief Joe Tripodi explained, “Sometimes you have to take a little leap of faith.”


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