Advertising on Social Media

David Card, as usual, has a very thoughtful post on the troubled adolescence of social media advertising.

The problem, as I see it, is figuring out the right way to introduce advertising into what is essentially a bunch of conversations.  The current approach is tantamount to stepping up to a couple of people talking and saying, “Your teeth will be whiter if you brush with Pepsodent”.  It’s moronic.  How can something like that be an effective approach?

(And it doesn’t get much more effective if you have a video of someone singing “You’ll wonder where the yellow went/When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”.  It’s the jarring disconnect between the conversation and the ad that causes trouble.)

A better approach: wear a t-shirt with the ad as you talk to your social mates.  They’ll ask about it: “What makes you so hot for Pepsodent.”  And then you tell them, “It makes my teeth whiter.”

A lot of vendors are going after this sort of thing (FULL DISCLOSURE: our portfolio company Adaptly is one of them), but no one’s figured out yet how to work an ad into a conversation in just that natural a manner.  Big unsolved problem.

Your thoughts?


One comment on “Advertising on Social Media

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Dan,

    Long time no see. RE: advertising, a significant problem is that advertisers are looking at unit sales (eg. tubes of Pepsodent) without taking into account that their particular unit is actually a subset of a larger activity (getting up in the morning). With very few exceptions, it’s hard to find 100% unitary experiences (eg. the product or service on offer doesn’t interact with any other product or service to enable something bigger). The travel industry had a terrible time decomposing a trip from an advertising POV. The airline wanted to ensure that its piece was the most important…..and when I’m 30,000ft above ground in an overcrowded metal cylinder with a lot of explosive jet fuel strapped to it I suppose it is. But the moment I leave the airport, the cab ride and then hotel become far more important than the airline, even as they are all part of the same process for moving my physical body from point A to Z. Finally, aggregators like an Expedia took a lot of friction out of putting those objects into a bundle called “Dan’s Trip to San Francisco”.

    I don’t see a dramatically different world in the social sphere. Whoever can take a lot of friction out of putting value objects (toothpaste/brush, clean laundry, breakfast/coffee etc) into a bundle and then provide it as currency to a conversation (eg. your guy with the tee shirt also has a card he hands out saying, “pick up a sample if you like”), that’s a few clicks closer to making advertising work in a social setting IMHO.

    Still, you don’t want to cross over from being helpful in a conversation to being the Herbalife party destroyer sporting a “Ask Me How I Lost Weight” button.

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