Facebook’s Failure in a Single Image

I am 37. I live  – and always have done – in Leeds. I’m married, have a couple of kids, work in online marketing, have had some fairly well documented health problems, follow the fortunes of Leeds United, play in a band and am bald.

All of this information I have given freely to Facebook over 6 or 7 years of near-daily use. My location, workplace, interests, relationships and music taste are exhaustively documented there for everyone to see and while my involvement with the site has fallen off over the last year, it is still the place I go to share life’s dramas and bad jokes with my nearest and dearest.

That stuff should be a goldmine for advertisers: “here’s a married man in Leeds, with kids, disposable income and who loves music.” Even without all the other stuff thrown in, it should be pretty easy to match me against some good ads.

Furthermore my statuses often reflect direct intent. Two random statuses from recent weeks:

“Having a loft conversion: Anyone want a futon? Getting rid for space reasons. Message me.”

“Anyone know a good pub for food in York?”

And that’s the fundamental premise of Facebook to advertisers: TV levels of exposure with a global audience of hundreds of millions, allied to personal profiles of every one and intent.

Based on this stuff, I’d probably expect/hope to see ads for local decorators, pubs, offers from music stores and things which just some obvious.

And yet, every day I see advertising like the stuff in the image on the right there. At the single most fundamental level, it’s not even the right country. I can’t buy Tyson Chicken Nuggets. There are no participating Simon Malls anywhere for me to use my Amex. None of them reflect my interests, location, tastes or needs.

Given what they know, Facebook should be better than Google at serving ads. Love it though I do, if they can’t sort this out they’re toast.



Google Car Insurance Comparison Ads Surface

A looong way back in time (in search, anyway) I wrote about Google buying Beat That Quote. At the time, the big splash in the pond was about the fact that Google rapidly banned them from the SERPs because of their dodgy link buying. Of course, the real story ran a little deeper than that: Google were buying the infrastructure necessary to run their own comparison engine.

They launched credit card comparison way back when and now if you search for “car insurance” you get one of the now-familiar extra-special Google ads:

Once you’ve decided to click that, you’re into a fully-fledged quote system, just like that offered by Gocompare, Money Supermarket etc.

Does this matter? Well yes. The screw down on non-brands gets ever harder. For ‘car insurance’ on a reasonable laptop monitor there is precisely one ‘free’ organic listing visible above the fold. Everything else on the screen is monetised by Google. I put ‘free’ in quote marks, because the amount of money that will have been spent on getting that ranking will have been huge – whether you believe in the power of brand signals or pureplay link buying that #1 represents a fortune in spend.

We know that Google are going to be moving into new car sales in the UK soon  (presaged by their offering in the US) and the pattern is now clear:

  1. Google indentifies a vertical
  2. Google acquires an operator in the space
  3. Google re-tools the infrastructure
  4. Google screws down the SERPs in favour of brands
  5. Google inserts their own offering in an enhanced space

This is spreading from vertical to vertical. If it hasn’t hit you yet, then it’s only a matter of time before it does.