Advertising as a Service

Facebook know everything about me and my friends. So why am I currently looking at a banner ad for air filters for my car (which I don’t even own)?

This post isn’t just about Facebook, it’s about online advertising. But I’m going to use Facebook as my example.

A few weeks ago I noticed an ad in my news feed. It consisted of a little loudspeaker icon with some copy telling me to get out and buy the latest pop-house music compilation from one of Melbourne’s most average DJs. It’s not that hard to look at my profile and my friend’s profiles and know that this was some terribly targeted advertising. The funny thing is that if it had been advertising an album I might actually like, I would have a totally different opinion to these news-feed ads. As it is now though, every time I see one that is irrelevant it is diluting their effectiveness. Facebook need to stop advertising like this until they can really effectively target people so that news-feed ads become a service, a welcome addition, rather than an abstract intrusion.

One thing the internet has done is democratised culture. These days it’s much easier to be into music (and for in turn a culture/sub-culture) that doesn’t get commercial radio play, doesn’t have glossy magazines dedicated to it, and doesn’t feature on MTV. So one thing I often ask people when they start getting a vacant, confused look on their face as I talk to them about advertising as a service is “What’s your favourite band, and how did you hear about them?”.

According to my favourite band is Son Kite. A Swedish progressive psytrance duo on the Digital Structures record label, these guys have a touch under 5,600 listeners logged on Compare that to Radiohead with just over 901,000 listeners. So it’s fair to say they’re moderately obscure. Yet every time I see them play they are treated like absolute superstars by those that also love their music. They might be terribly niche, but the long tail means that with today’s technology they can still have a massive global following.

So how did I hear about Son Kite? Well one day I was talking to the delivery van driver for my mum’s business. He mentioned he was a DJ and I asked him what sort of stuff he played. Cut to 15 minutes later and we’ve both been talking about the music we love and he mentions some guys he knows from Sweden called Son Kite, he reckons I would love them and tells me their first album is coming out in a few weeks. Seven years later I still listen to that album.

So now that Facebook know everything about me and my friends, why can’t they act as that friend that recommends the cool new stuff? Advertising doesn’t need to be intrusive and irrelevant in a space like this, with effective communication it can be an invaluable service.

And essentially this comes down to what advertising and marketing should be about anyway, effective communication to the people who care.

- September 2007