Facebook is not TV. Focus your ads on engagement.

07:00 14 January in Mblast Data

Been digesting a fascinating article on the state of advertising and Facebook in the New York Times over the weekend. It’s a great case study of conflicting goals and the tenacity of outdated advertising practices.

Here’s the setup: the maker of a krill-oil dietary supplement is talking with Facebook about advertising strategies. The Facebook team is recommending an impression-based approach, “to show ads to every American woman 45 and older on Facebook — as many as 32 million people.”

As the article points out, Facebook’s own value prop for its ads has been all over the map the past few years, and the latest iteration appears to be aping TV: “Facebook…sees particular value in promoting its TV-like qualities, given that advertisers spend $200 billion a year on that medium.”

Makes sense for Facebook – follow the money.

But the krill-oil guy’s not buying it: “I can go to television at a quarter the price.” He understands instinctually that Facebook can offer something different from TV, an opportunity to target people based on the context of their content, experiences and interactions – in his case, the people who are current fish-oil users or have demonstrated they are concerned about heart health.

Now that’s my kind of marketer. Engagement trumps reach.

Of course, the Facebook team had a ready answer for him – a misshapen metaphor about shotguns: “…Advertising on Facebook was like firing a shotgun. ‘And you are firing that buckshot knowing where every splinter of that bullet is landing,’”

Really? If by “knowing” you mean a general sense of the target. Something like “32 million American woman 45 and older.” Still sounds like “spray and pray” to me.

Think about it. You use a shotgun because you can’t “know” precisely where the duck you’re hunting is going to be in the air when you fire. So when you analyze the metaphor, Facebook is saying “ducks fly in the air, so let’s shoot your bullets in the air.” Ok, that’s a little harsh. It’s more like “ducks fly in the air above salt marshes, so let’s shoot your bullets in the air over salt marshes.”

The fact is that when you know exactly where your target is – when you can see the bullseye –you use a rifle and fire far fewer, but more well-aimed bullets.

Enough with the guns. The point is the krill-oil guy had it right. He knew the context of the conversations and interactions on Facebook could show him where his buyers are, even in the moment of their decision-making – the kind of unique insights that are much more difficult if not impossible to derive from the data supplied by TV or print or digital display channels.

To learn more about how you can use Facebook and other online channels to add these digital indicators of buying intent to your marketing mix, give us a shout. We’re not in the TV business or acting like we are.

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