No Cake for You!
It seems Facebook wants to have its cake and eat it too, especially where it relates to advertising being distributed through its network. Recently, within the last day or two, they have announced they are putting the hammer down on “low quality” ads to increase the overall user experience. Let’s be clear that this is ALL about money. Facebook is making it virtually impossible for anyone to get any organic engagement at all. If you want to play, you are going to have to pay! If you think there is something more altruistic behind this, you are deluding yourself.
Part of me is bothered by this. If you have a business that generates its revenue through ad sales, then you need to “suck it up” and allow people to post just about anything that is moral, ethical and lawful, even if it is a little embellished. Afterall, misleading to one person is crystal clear to another and it is very, very subjective.
The other part of me says, “its Facebook and they can do whatever they want.” That said, this move is endemic of the “privileged, participation trophy set” – God forbid we offend their overly sensitive dispositions and expose them to something they don’t want to see or hear. Forget about the entire “you don’t know what you don’t know” implications. Advertising, in its truest sense, is designed to make people aware of something they might not have been aware of otherwise. What a sad existence most people will lead if they are only exposed to things that they “like.” It is like going to a restaurant that only has one thing on the menu. Sure, you like that one thing, but who knows, if there were multiple choices, you might like something else just as much or more.
The sad part of this is that most advertisers and agencies will kowtow to the edicts of Facebook and modify their approach accordingly, even if it is counter to everything they stand for. The reason for this is simple – now, done right, no other online advertising is as effective.
So, what are these new restrictions and how are they going to impact your Facebook advertising strategy?
First, as defined by Facebook, “Low-quality ads on Facebook, such as ones that include clickbait or direct people to unexpected content, create bad experiences for people and don’t align with our goal of creating meaningful connections between people and businesses. We are now going further in our efforts to limit low-quality ads on our platforms by disapproving more of them and reducing distribution for more ads in our auction.”
The other problem I have with this new Facebook policy is it looks, smells and acts a lot like censorship. Most people probably won’t care if they don’t have to view an ad for a steakhouse if they are vegan.
So, what are these new “Low-quality ad” criteria?
The first violator of socially acceptable advertising as far as Facebook is concerned is Engagement Bait. I have to stop and chuckle a little because “baiting” people to engage is the ENTIRE purpose of advertising. Companies have spent gazillions of dollars over the years learning how to perfect “baiting” people to engage. There are books written on this topic and the psychology behind it. But apparently, Facebook wants us to use ads that don’t use this scandalous practice. To me, this basically says that Facebook thinks most people are too stupid to realize they are being “baited” to engage. While this may be true, I think most people are smart enough to decide for themselves whether they click on the “like my page and share with your friends” approach. If you read their rules on this, it is rather nebulous and WAY open to interpretation. I guess the bottom line is, don’t ask anyone to engage even though that is exactly what advertising is supposed to do and even though Facebook’s analytics track and seem to encourage engagement. Apparently, this is the case if it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I am wondering if your advertising stops working if they are going to reward you with a participation trophy. Below is the example that Facebook used to exemplify this new rule.
The second culprit, which is somewhat devious, but again, has been used in advertising since the dawn of time is withholding information.
Can you see Coca-Cola saying, Coke it is the real thing as long as you understand it will remove rust from most metal objects, has so much sugar in it you are likely to become a diabetic with prolonged use and it is highly likely that, consumed daily, your teeth may rot out of your head. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure people would still buy and drink Coke, but I am guessing not as many would as without the withheld information.
I guess it is the ambiguity they are fighting against. They don’t care for vague posts that allude to something without telling you what that something is unless you click on the link. Again, what this says to me is that Facebook thinks most of its users are entirely too stupid to make up their own mind. The example below is what Facebook is saying exemplifies withholding information.
Finally, and my favorite because I am known to violate this new rule as much as I possible can, is Sensationalize Language or Ads with exaggerated headlines.
I so want to use the “F”-word here as in are you f**king kidding me? I could write an entire book on the stupidity of this rule alone. In fact, this is the entire premise of Orwell’s book 1984. If you haven’t read the book (shame on you) or you think “Big Brother” was what 1984 is about, here is a quote from the novel that hammers my point home: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak (the greatly minimized dictionary people were allowed to use) is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.”
I think sensationalized language is the single thing that separates crappy advertising from GREAT advertising. I don’t want to buy a car that is mediocre, I want to buy a car that has “cutting-edge” design, and “amazing” features. Why don’t we do away with all adjectives altogether, especially if it hurts someone’s feelings. How about we just say to the overly sensitive, “suck it up, buttercup…if you don’t like it spend less of your life on Facebook and more of your life out in the real world.” I don’t understand this one at all, but then too, my mind is easily blown.
The question that comes to mind is, how is Facebook going to enforce these new rules.
Whatever way they choose, it is going to cost them money which means the advertisers are getting hosed another way by having to pay higher prices to reach the same audience. And since they can’t employ these tactics any longer, advertisers are going to have to “suck it up” and live with poor results.
The good news is, there are other places to advertise where the users aren’t as sensitive and can discern for themselves what ads they want to look at and which ones they don’t. These other venues don’t assume that their audience is stupid and do not change their policies for the few that scream the loudest. In the big spectrum of things, there are so many more important issues Facebook should be concerned about like accounts getting hacked. Maybe this is just a way to take the emphasis off their recent security blunders and do something that will assuage the Epsilons (a Brave New World reference for those who may not understand the terminology) and convince them that all is double-plus good.