In celebration of registering its billionth user, Facebook decided to create and release its first ever television advertisement. Titled “The Things that Connect Us,” the 90 second spot by Weiden+Kennedy features some nice cinematography, but raises a number of questions about the motives, expectations, and intentions of the social media giant.
What is the goal of this particular ad? Is the company looking to encourage more folks to sign up? Roughly 1 out of every 7 people on the planet already have Facebook accounts. Perhaps they are trying to engage their users on a deeper level, leading them to spend more time on the site in hopes of selling more digital ads. On that front, Facebook faces a challenge much larger than engagement; the ads themselves don’t work.
Regardless of the motivation, on a more superficial level, the content of the ad is obviously lacking. The whole effort seems heavy handed and almost egotistical. We are 8+ years into Facebook’s existence, and up until the company going public with what has unfolded as a disastrous IPO in 2012, they had done quite well for themselves. The company’s history is marked with achievement after achievement, but Facebook isn’t the first or, arguably, the best social media network. The central message of the ad is misplaced self-praise as a communication platform that is as good as interacting face to face, as we do in chairs, on airplanes, and over bridges.
Marketers watching this ad should also be left wondering what Facebook’s branding is going to look like in future advertising campaigns. With an all white logo at the end, it might be construed that the company is reluctant to put out an ad with the actual Facebook brand (the now iconic blue-colored square containing an “f”). More questions materialize as to what brand equity Facebook has beyond mere recognition at this juncture.
Each of these criticisms is rendered with an understanding that Facebook must discover a business model if it is to survive an imminent social media bubble and keep its stock price afloat. Facebook’s stated intention is to promote the ad using its own suite of ad products, including sponsored stories and log out ads, though the video will also be visible for non-users to see. Registering a billion users is a monumental achievement, but reaching the next billion users will be a herculean task. Whether the ad will help or hurt in the long run is yet to be known.