Facebook’s chief revenue officer’s pitch to advertisers: We’ve created “the most sophisticated and accurate targeting system available on the web today.”
What companies such as Facebook and MySpace say to their marketing clients and prospects is one thing. To users and members (and regulators), especially about protecting privacy, it’s another story. That’s one reason why we hope everyone will review this video from Facebook’s chief revenue officer Owen Van Natta presentation at a U.K. marketing conference held November 7, 2007. Van Natta explained that the new Facebook marketing system was designed to help marketers reach “people that influence people…the next generation of advertising is going to tap into trusted referrals in a way that has never has been done before.” Using the language of marketers, Van Natta pointed to the 25 million individuals daily on Facebook: “that’s a lot of reach and frequency.” “We’re going to spread your message virally,” he told the Internet Advertising Bureau UK crowd. You can “fan” your brand, he assured them. Facebook would enable them to tap into the “power of the influencer.”
Van Natta also discussed the test they had done of the new Beacon and related Facebook marketing system. Calling Facebook’s advertising approach a form of `social distribution,’ he said that “this is going to create some of the most effective advertising that marketers have ever seen…Facebook social ads are like trusted referrals from your friends.” It’s “the most sophisticated and accurate targeting system available on the web today.” The chief revenue officer also trumpeted the “targeting and insights” capabilities of the new approach: “nothing like this has ever been available before…incredibly power insights…actionable information.”
Van Natta also discussed the benefits for advertisers from the Beacon system, including how the use of the marketed products by Facebook members was tied in to their “mini-feed.” He discussed the new service called “Pulse,” which informs advertisers how many people are talking about their brand on Facebook. That’s “incredibly valuable,” Van Natta noted. He said they knew exactly who was getting the ad, and that advertisers would receive “actionable social data.”
We hope all Facebook users and regulators–here and in the EU especially–will watch this video. Facebook users have no idea they are now part of a viral marketing scheme, where information that is being sent to them is shaped by the kinds of arrangements made with advertisers. The idea that the information shared with marketers is “non-personally identifiable,” as he claims, is absurd. They know your interests, where you live, your circle of friends, etc. There is an important place for commerce in communications. But there need to be rules to ensure that what goes on is fair. And privacy must be protected.