Friday, December 19, 2008

This Just In From Captain Obvious

There's an article this week in the NY Times treading some well-worn ground, namely that advertising on social networks isn't going so well:
Advertisers Face Hurdles on Social Networking Sites
There's not much new in the piece, so if you've already been reading on the topic you can probably skip this one; highly-placed in the piece, for instance, is this earth-shattering insight: "Members of social networks want to spend time with friends, not brands."

Still, maybe there's value in belaboring the point (or, at least, in documenting it in a publication as respected as the NYT). There is this one takeaway, though:
"Brand advertisers on Facebook can try one of two new approaches. They can be more intrusive, but the outcome will not be positive. Or they can create genuinely entertaining commercials, but spend ungodly sums to do so."
I can think of a third approach: don't advertise on social networks. And even a fourth: advertise, but do so knowing that you're advertising for the purpose of brand awareness rather than sales.

Actually, that last point is maybe a little interesting. Facebook and other social networks might be where ads go to die, but there's got to be an oppportunity cost if you don't advertise on those platforms. That is to say, there's a risk in choosing not to advertise on hot Internet media properties -- namely, your brand might come to be associated with old media, your parents' generation, etc. It's probably hard to quantify, but I'd love to see an analysis on an actual cost-benefit ratio of social network advertising, where the cost is obvious (the cost of producing the ad, placing the ad, maintaining the promotion plus any prizes you give out) but the benefit is maybe a little obscure (not just sales but also brand recognition and positive brand associations).