Facebook Ads: You Will Be Monetized

November 7, 2007

This Facebook ad thing is all about the money, big corporations licking their lips over sucking in clueless customers, and basically nothing to do with how or why I use Facebook. Therefore, I think it’s a questionable move.

The one bit that turns me off, big time:

People will not be able to opt out of these social ads or turn them off, at least for now, unless they stop revealing information about themselves on Facebook. Says Zuckerberg: “It is an ad-supported service. It is a free service.”

I get that Facebook has got to make money somehow, but no opt out is a huge deal breaker. So I guess the only way to opt out is to stop using Facebook? Gotcha, I’ll make a mental note of that one.

Next annoying statement:

Social Ads are not so much about buying a digital camera right now because you are in the middle of your shopping research. They are about planting suggestions for things you may want but do not even know that you want. That is what brand advertising is, and it represents the majority of ad dollars spent today offline.

Uh… actually, I think that is totally backwards. The only time I really want to know more about a product is when I am doing research on it. Any other and it’s an unwanted solicitation. This line about “planting suggestions for things you may want but do not even know that you want” is pure marketing bull.

Every company believes their product will do wonders for my life, from Brillo pads to Gold’s Gym Memberships to Vanilla Mint Orange Colgate. But I know that 99% of advertisers are completely wrong. Who knows me better than me? How presumptuous to claim to know more about me… than me! Way to earn a customer (or in this case, annoy a user).

Oh, but you’ll love our product if you only give it a try? Please. You’re wrong, and bugging me to try something that I have no interest in makes me more inclined to despise your product just because you bothered me with your pitch.

Now the targeted ad thing is slightly better – but only when I need a cheap laugh. I sometimes check out the Amazon suggests or NetFlix recommends type thing and they’re always completely wrong. Neither site has enough data on me to make truly accurate suggestions, and I have no interest in giving them enough data to make their suggestions work properly.

The same goes for Facebook. I’ll make it a point to not give them the data they so desire from here on out. Easy to do when I don’t use the site that much.

Maybe I’ll befriend Dove (is it the ice cream or that soap that floats?) for some amusing chuckles.

The bottom line: this is about monetizing Facebook and justifying the 15 billion dollar valuation with some actual earnings. It has nothing to do with providing a service I’d actually use.

The larger societal implications are summed up quite eloquently by Nick Carr:

Editorial is advertorial. The medium is the message from our sponsor. Marketing is conversational, says Zuckerberg, and advertising is social. There is no intimacy that is not a branding opportunity, no friendship that can’t be monetized, no kiss that doesn’t carry an exchange of value.

That’s a really crappy future. I don’t want to enable it.

Update: Another choice quote in Portfolio magazine from Mr. Zuckerberg:

If those interests include not seeing advertising, that is too bad. “There is no opting out of advertising,” Zuckerberg said.

Additional Reading: WinExtra, New York Times, Deep Jive Interests, Republic of Internets


  1. JC says:

    I never saw the value of Facebook, anyway. But this sort of attitude demonstrates why we have the continuing cycle of booms and busts here in the land of Silicon. Somehow, we all manage to forget that baiting and switching users never works in the long run. If you want to make money on something, don’t offer it for free for two years, and then start charging out of the blue. Set up a model that is sustainable from the get-go.

    Sites like Facebook train people to expect everything for free. It’s no wonder they get so upset when ads suddenly start appearing. Just be honest with your customers from the beginning.

    My guess is that the creators of all these startups never really care about long-term sustainability. They just want to make their millions by selling off to Microsoft or Google when the time comes to start justifying the next round of funding. No one wants to build something and keep it going forever anymore. There are few Bill Gates or Steve Jobs types around here at this point. Little long-term vision. It’s sad, really.

  2. engtech says:

    Something that works well for Facebook:

    searching the Marketplace gives you ads for exactly what you were looking for on amazon.com that look very similar to marketplace results.

  3. webomatica says:

    Some Web 2.0 companies provide web services that I could see users paying for (flickr comes to mind) but the whole “give stuff away for free and figure out how to make money later” was something that I had hoped went away with Web 1.0.

    Now we’re in the fuzzy territory where profit doesn’t matter and the hype or strategy is more important than actually having a sustainable business model. Facebook may be in the situation where their valuation is ahead of their profits so they need to come up with a business model (fast) that will justify it. Seems totally backwards.

  4. Thank you for making some effort at seeing the “no opt out” element of Facebook Ads from the point of view of the user. Nine out of ten blogs covering social networking, and an equal percentage of the commenters reading them, think this is a great idea. I don’t want to be branded and become a networked marketer for Facebook, so I’ll just opt out of using Facebook.

  5. Dave says:

    Jase – I agree, I’ll reassert that the business model should go into “beta” when the site/biz goes into beta. Of course, I’m not Facebook or YouTube or Google…so what do I know? lol. But the general mentality is: gain audience and share and then figure out what to do with it. Which is fine. It just means that you’ll have a few seismic events in the course of the company (like with this one for Facebook).

    I think a big problem with announcements like this is that Facebook is marketing its business announcement to the media/industry using a lot of jargon and business-talk (always off-putting). Of course, the audience gets to hear all this at the same time over the very same interwebs being used to disseminate and, frankly, it all comes across as very, very…cold and creepy.

  6. webomatica says:

    Yep – the first message heard was from Facebook to the advertisers, and then another to the users, both of which have a fair amount of spin to make it look like a win-win for both parties – but I’m not seeing it from the user perspective.

  7. Mike says:


    Thanks for the heads-up. I deleted my MySpace account, maybe it’s almost time to delete my Facebook account. It’s great for connecting with people you don’t see everyday, but it’s a massive waste of time for the amount of benefits you get from it.

    I’d like to see something decentralized, I got the sense OpenSocial would be that…but I haven’t looked too far into the details.

  8. Dave says:

    Wow, thanks for the link Jase. That is some serious double-speak.

    I’m also a little concerned since the way it’s positioned from a user-perspective is definitely moving into where my little website plays (fandom for anything). I hope we don’t get crushed ;-)