What nobody wants: TV commercials on Facebook

15-second commercials are on their way to the social network. How long before users rebel?

Topics: Facebook, Advertising, online advertising, ads, commercials, TV ads, Mark Zuckerberg, ,

What nobody wants: TV commercials on Facebook

Facebook currently boasts 1.15 billion users. I’d really like to know: Excluding those lucky souls who are also Facebook shareholders, is there a single one who is excited about the news that Facebook will soon be rolling out 15-second TV-style commercials in its news feeds?

Investors appear to be happy about a Bloomberg report that Facebook plans to charge as much as $2.5 million for each ad. The same morning the news broke, Facebook’s stock price finally clawed its way back to its IPO offering level of $38.

But there are some important unanswered questions about the new ads. Will users be able to stop them from playing immediately after they start, or be forced to sit through all 15 seconds? Will users be able to indicate to Facebook that they don’t want to receive ads from particular advertisers?

According to Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg has pushed the start date for the TV ads back “at least twice, wanting to make sure Facebook’s user experience won’t be tainted by the ads.” Zuckerberg is purportedly “sensitive to how users react to advertising in general.”

Such sensitivity is warranted. Auto-playing TV-style commercials that intrude into the Facebook news feed will by definition downgrade the user experience. Again, no one who does not stand to financially benefit from the advertising actually wants this to happen. At best, we’ll grumble and acknowledge that there’s always a price to pay for any service. At worst, we’ll use Facebook less.

Although, to be fair, even as Facebook has ramped up its news feed advertising, growing user dissatisfaction does not seem to have materialized in any quantifiable way. Facebook reported healthy gross revenue and net income numbers for its second quarter, along with strong growth in mobile usage. The numbers don’t appear to lie: Facebook’s ads aren’t killing the golden goose yet.

“One of the things I watch most closely is the quality of our ads and people’s sentiment around them,” Zuckerberg said. “We haven’t measured a meaningful drop in satisfaction.”



But that brings me to a puzzle. In May I ranted about how I wasn’t able to turn off Facebook’s spammy dating ads on my smartphone. A few days later, Facebook promised that a new update of its mobile app would allow for better control of the advertising experience. For a week or two, I tested the upgrade by doing my best to hide ads and indicate to Facebook I never wanted to see ads from those particular advertisers again.

I just now realized that I haven’t seen a mobile Facebook ad for several weeks, while other Facebook mobile users are reporting seeing as many as three advertisements per the first 20 posts on their feeds. The implication is that Facebook’s algorithms finally figured out that I really didn’t want to see ads — and is respecting that. If the same holds true for the TV commercial launch, then I will have to give credit to Facebook for pulling off something truly unexpected: giving users meaningful control over their Facebook advertising experience.

But I still don’t understand how that can work in the long run. If Facebook users figure out how to turn off ads, how will Facebook be able to charge millions of dollars for them?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...