"Nice ad you got. Be a shame if no one saw it."

Last month, after six months of hard work and multiple presentations with the client, and endless production and post-production nightmares, our "film," went live on youtube and racked up eight million views in a week. The following week added an extra million. The two teams I manage, one junior, one mid-level, were ecstatic. And who wouldn't be? It's a lot of eyeballs, right?

Too bad the first week wasn't organic but paid. I didn't tell them that, though. An account person did, explaining that the first week they want to ensure views, and "start the conversation," and then they stop paying. This means our "film," had a million and a half real views at most. Still not bad, but the look on my teams' faces when they heard that was akin to showing them how the sausage gets made.

More experienced people know this is regular practice, but really, to what end? In 2012, GM stopped advertising on Facebook. It took its 40 million dollars elsewhere. When Facebook started reducing organic reach it became even clearer that social media is not the bargain, or effective juggernaut it was purported to be.

Consider that analog media print for a moment. You spend money to place an ad in GQ, and it goes in GQ's across the country. There is no guarantee someone will buy the magazine, of course, but if they do, there is a good chance they'd see your ad. If Facebook owned GQ, you'd place an ad in it, and then Facebook would hide 90% of the magazines unless you paid them to put the magazine featuring your ad on the magazine stands.

So we live in the digital age where media channels like Youtube and Facebook seem only effective if you pay for views to inflate your numbers (and likes if you're even more smarmy). And remember, a vast majority of Youtube videos (ads or otherwise) do not go viral. Then in Facebook's case you're dealing with a a quasi-Mafia-style practice of paying them to "boost" your post to an audience you worked hard to cultivate. If GM spent a year or two getting a million plus people to like its page, the expectation was that their posts would reach that audience. By Facebook ensuring the opposite, why would you want to do business with them?

Brands are starting to realize it doesn't pay. Or rather, these media channels are just as flawed as the analog ones, if not more so. HighSnobiety has an article today called Why Brands don't need Instagram to succeed. While they specifically talk about fashion brands, their position holds true for all branding, in that they posit Instagram is vastly overrated. They concede like most people in advertising that it is merely one of many advertising strategies. But you know what? So is sky writing and direct mail, neither of which people are jizzing in their pants to create or insist be part of the 360 campaign. There are no Sky Writing Influencers, or Direct Mail Gurus with millions of fake followers. And yet I'd argue those two communication channels are just as effective as Facebook and Instagram.

Or just as flawed. But unlike sky writing, there is no helpful button to help me dismiss the ad as being "not relevant," or "repetitive," like there is on Instagram and Twitter. I can dismiss the ad faster than you can spit, and there's even a convenient extension I can add to my browser that will hide all Facebook ads.

It isn't all bad news for your social media campaign. You are always ensured some eyeballs and press-- from advertising sites. Most never tire of trying to convince us social media is worth more than any other media because it is new. Since Adland is not one of those sites and we are still silly enough to judge an execution by an idea, you won't see much of that gushing here unless it's really warranted. We're more interested in what people outside advertising think. As well as the brands who pay attention to effectiveness over what's "trending." After all, it's their money.

While Adweek calls Ballantines Instagram zine the ad of the day, I first question why they'd want to call their zine "W" when there's already W Magazine everyone knows. By the way it's also on Instagram. And while I know the majority of people will not "engage," with it in any meaningful way, I also know numbers will be spun to ensure the success. Look how many people talked about our ad they never actually viewed!

So don't worry, junior teams, you can still put this advertorial (that's what it is, you know) in your book, confident that a few "enthusiasts" saw it. And while that's a drop in the bucket, there was a lot of "social chatter," whatever that means. And who knows-- maybe a few of those views were organic, too.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Anielle Reid's picture

I love this! Where almost everything is an advertorial especially in the music industry it is good to read the truth about the significance of social media. Yes it's great but a large percentage of engagement is not organic and now where it is even harder to reach organic audiences in the manner that enabled brands to in the past on FB, Twitter FB( I mean Instagram) a lot of brands are using other outlets.
In a way I am extremely happy about the failings of social media to creative and brands as I find a lot of people are beginning to communicate in REAL, AUTHENTIC ways to develop a following as opposed to what we did when social media was in its prime.