Facebook Advertising Should 'Be Less Creepy,' Says Ad Man

Should Facebook Advertising Be 'Less Creepy'?

From GM's condemnation of Facebook to Facebook's own admission that it hasn't figured out mobile advertising, debate has swirled around Facebook's potential to push product and make money.

Since Facebook will likely reap billions from Friday's IPO, it should have the means to improve its advertising platform.

So HuffPost asked ad and marketing types what the social network can do to get better. The unexpected answer: "Be less creepy."

It was John Elder, president of the Heat ad agency in San Francisco, who said Facebook should "be less creepy." His agency recently published a survey that indicated 57 percent of the population find behaviorally re-targeted banner ads to be, well, "creepy."

"One imagines that that sentiment is even higher for Facebook advertising, because Facebook has oceans of data, and knows more things about us and our friends than we know ourselves," he wrote.

In other words, someone who browses a catalog for hernia trusses probably doesn't want to be bombarded by hernia truss banner ads on Facebook.

"If I wanted to buy on [an advertiser's] site, I would have, and it's annoying to be treated like a toddler with a nagging mother," Elder explained. "Like everything there is a balance."

Jared Hendler, executive vice president and global director digital and creative for MWW Group, suggested Facebook turn its users into an e-commerce army. The network should reward loyalists who sell their favorite company's merchandise from their personal page. "Imagine if folks could curate and collect the things that they loved the most (as Pinterest allows us to) in order to allow us all to be resellers of those products directly, via their own profile, and receive a cut or discount for doing so," Hendler said.

As a public company, Facebook must not forget its community roots when it comes time to publish quarterly earnings, Hendler added. Trying to please shareholders could lead to a growing emphasis on straight advertising over the more subtle returns of brand awareness. Bad idea, Hendler said. Nobody wants to use a platform that puts advertisers before community.

Along similar lines, Russ Lange, a partner in CMG Partners strategic marketing consultants, urged Facebook and its advertisers not to focus on advertising in the traditional sense. Facebook is a conversation, he said. It allows brands to connect with loyalists who can spread the word. Nothing kills a conversation like advertising.

"It's all about engagement," he said.

Phil Penton, president of Socialdealer, an adviser for the automotive industry in social media, recommended that Facebook and its advertisers do more work locally. While some critics wondered whether Facebook advertising worked on a large scale in the wake of GM ditching it and Ford defending it, Penton said regionally targeted advertising could be successful. Penton said his car-dealer clients have already seen great results.

"Typical advertising speaks at the consumer, and in many cases, this advertising is speaking to an entire population," he said. "Whereas Facebook ads offer them a cost-effective means to start these conversations with prospects and customers in their local market."

Karen Post, the author of "Brand Turnaround," believes Facebook needs to invest in love. No, Facebook doesn't need a boyfriend; rather, it needs to evoke feelings of love from those who engage in product discussion and display. "People see Facebook as this huge utility platform that does stuff," Post said, "but is it a utility that does stuff that you love?

"I would hope they take resources to more emotionally connect with their average users that have profiles and their business users that have pages, and work on the basics of what a brand stands for. It's got to have a personality, strong points of distinction, a brand promise -- and to their stakeholders, it has to have a clear purpose."

Disclosure: The Huffington Post's parent company, AOL Inc., is a client of Heat.

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