GM announced the decision to drop Facebook paid ads on Tuesday. Who thinks that the timing of this, the week of Facebook’s IPO, is a coincidence? It seems GM is sending a message that perhaps Google, as well as other traditional platforms, perform better for the Automotive Vertical. Will other verticals follow? According to Reuters, “GM’s decision followed Facebook officials’ failure to convince top marketing executives at the U.S. automaker of the benefits of Facebook’s paid ads at a meeting that took place in the past few weeks, people familiar with the meeting said on Thursday.”
With Facebook pricing its initial public offering at the top of its target range, set to raise up to $18.4 billion, it looks like a little rain on its parade. Every teenager I speak to tells me they do not see the ads on Facebook. And Facebook has yet to address the challenge of earning less advertising revenue associated with the increased trend of people accessing Facebook via mobile devices.
The social website is no doubt a part of the fabric of people’s lives at this point, so there is no doubt about scale. And with their talent and resources, one might expect Facebook to meet any challenge. But performance and results wins in the long run when it comes to digital advertising, not potential. Only time will tell if GM’s move is a drizzle, or the beginning of a storm the likes of which are outlined in a MediaPost article by George Simpson below…
Why Facebook Could Disappear By the time you read this, the Zuck and his various expat cronies will have so much money that they can tell GM where to put their ad money for the next 20 years. But one wonders if Facebook’s loss of paid advertising from the back-from-the-brink-thank -you-American-taxpayers automaker will encourage other marketers to rethink ads on the social media behemoth. Sanford C. Bernstein’s Carlos Kirjner says if auto ads fail on Facebook, then AT&T, Procter & Gamble and American Express may follow GM’s lead and curb spending on the site. “The revenue loss is insignificant, but the fact that one of the largest brand advertisers in the country sees Facebook as ineffective suggests others may do so,” Kirjner apparently says in a research report. Terry Kawaja was kind enough to allow me to hang around Luma’s crowded-with-big-dogs Digital Media Summit earlier this week, where the GM snub of Facebook was certainly a topic of much discussion. A number of folks in the know said that lots of big-brand CMOs are getting a little cranky about Facebook’s failure to provide metrics that help advertisers understand how successful their ad spend really is on the site. Kind of reminds me of the last century, when AOL was hot as a firecracker and thought that they were SO vital to the digital ecosystem that they could take a crap in your hat and then blame you for the smell. Some of what they did was outright illegal (raise your hand if you remember round tripping) but what wasn’t was either immoral or obnoxiously arrogant. Haven’t those chickens come home to roost? Similarly, Google, which piously pledged to “do no evil,” then set about to knowingly invade more privacy than a conga line of mother-in-laws. And when advertisers said that they were being scammed by fake clicks, Google just said, “Your problem, not ours. By the way, what’s your bid?” It was so interesting to me to see how carefully folks in the ad business criticized Facebook over the GM problem. Not because Facebook deserved the benefit of the doubt, but because it is the current 900-million-pound gorilla on the block, and sooner or later everyone wants to either do business with them — or better yet, be acquired by them for a ridiculous premium. This assumes that what happened to AOL won’t happen to Facebook. Many argue that Facebook is so well established, has such a big audience and is such a critical part of everyone’s online habits that it has become part of — if not THE — American way of life.To which I have long responded: bullshit. MySpace was well on its way to becoming that iconic, can’t-live-without-it kind of company, and Facebook came along and cut its legs off. As soon as the aunts and uncles and grandpas showed up on MySpace, the kids that were the cornerstone of their business hit the exits and ran straight for Facebook. I contend the exact same thing could happen to Facebook. With a DNA of rating girl’s looks, Facebook was built to appeal to college kids. When the younger kids saw their older siblings there, they wanted to be on Facebook, too. Meanwhile, technology was shrinking to fit your hand, making checking in and out of the system just too irresistibly easy. But now the aunts and uncles are there and OMG! the ‘rents, and a growing amount of advertising, making the experience far less “cool” and exclusive for youngsters. Meanwhile, Facebook is acting like AOL and starting to piss off more than a few CMOs and agency buyers with its arrogance. And the bloom is starting to fall off the rosy social media “experiment,” since it is almost impossible to draw a line from an ad impression on FB and an actual sale. Thus is the stage set for someone else to come up with a place for kids to hang out (in spite of FB trying to tie up years of created content) that is cooler than Facebook. Sorry, Google, it won’t be you or yours. It will start as a trickle, then move pretty quickly to flood stage. Wherever the kids go, the rest of us will follow. And the shares that will undoubtedly skyrocket today will come crashing down all around your profile page. Or not. I could be dead wrong. But I doubt it.