I’ve heard some fresh grumbling lately about how Facebook is planning to advertise to its users based on information they’ve put in their profile or specific keywords they’ve used in their updates. Let me back up a bit, though, because this post goes a lot deeper than Facebook – it’s really about advertising / marketing and whether or not those of us who work in the industry are really the spawn of Satan. As you can imagine, my answer is a definitive “NO” but those of you who are inclined to take the opposite position, please hear me out.
You’ve likely all heard the phrase that there is no such thing a as a free lunch; if something is “free,” it’s quite likely that someone is sponsoring it, and they would like a few minutes of your attention in return for whatever free item you are enjoying. Think of TV back in the old days, back before cable. Yes, all the shows were free, but everyone also understood that the advertisers were paying for it, so we would be pausing for a few messages from our sponsors. Magazines and newspapers? Your subscription cost just barely covers the cost of delivering the periodical to you; all of the real revenue is generated by ads.
Now, there are all different types of advertising. The ones that set you up to feel inadequate about something that never would have occurred to you before you saw the ad just so they can sell you something you don’t need really are in a class by themselves. But for the most part ads inform us about things that we actually do want – a new car, the new movie coming out, the benefits of Crest over Aquafresh, and etc. Marketing, when done right, is the art of finding out what consumers want and then figuring out how to explain how their product can help you with that.
Imagine a world where there is no advertising at all. First of all, the amount we would all have to pay for television, magazines, and yes, even currently free internet services would go through the roof. Secondly, if someone invented some fabulous new product that would solve the biggest annoyance in your daily life,you might never find out about it.
Make no mistake, the nice people at Facebook are not busting their butts, buying all those servers and paying all the electric bills just out of the goodness of their hearts. If they couldn’t sell advertising they would go out of business and then where would we post all of our pictures of breakfast and cute cat tricks? Personally I would rather see a few ads in the background than pay my share of their electric bill.
As for the targeted advertising they are suggesting? I would also rather see ads for things I am really interested in than another pitch for the one simple ingredient this stay at home mom found to whiten her teeth, melt away belly fat or do away with bad breath permanently. Wouldn’t you?
Can you name some time you have been happy to be advertised to?
What about some shameless examples of really evil ads that try make us feel bad about ourselves?
About the author: Kate Headen Waddell is a strategic copywriter specializing in web copy, white papers, case studies, solution briefs and other B2B marketing tools. You can visit her website at www.smartb2bmarcom.com. http://www.smartb2bmarcom.com