Monday, December 15, 2008

Social advertising - an oxymoron?

Is Social Advertising an Oxymoron?

So, what if social media and advertising just don’t mix? There’s mounting evidence to suggest just that — only this time the backlash isn’t from users, it’s from advertisers themselves.

In a recent online survey of brand managers, more than half of those responding declared themselves not interested in social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. The poll, conducted in late October by GfK Roper for Epsilon, a leading marketing consultancy, found that only 35 percent of the marketers surveyed had any interest in using such sites. Blogs drew an almost equally tepid response.

Another study, this one by the research firm IDC, suggested their lack of enthusiasm might be well-placed. More and more users are spending more and more time on social networking sites, but the study found they aren't very responsive to ads there: Clickthrough rates were reported to be far lower than at other sites. On the web in general, nearly 80 percent of users clicked on at least one ad in the past year; on social networking sites, fewer than 60 percent did so.

Ted McConnell, head of interactive marketing and innovation at Procter & Gamble, isn't surprised. Speaking at a digital marketing conference in Cincinnati, P&G’s hometown, McConnell asked, “What in heaven's name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?”

McConnell’s problem is not just with Facebook and its ilk but with the whole idea of tying advertising to consumer-generated content. “Who said this is media?” he demanded. “Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody…. We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.”

That’s one way of looking at it. Not surprisingly, Tim Kendall, Facebook’s director of monetization — a daunting title, under the circumstances — has another.

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