Mark Zuckerberg (Reuters/Beck Diefenbach)

How Mark Zuckerberg sells snake oil

A distressing report from the front lines of the war for your thumbs. Advertising on Facebook works


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Andrew Leonard
August 4, 2014 10:19PM (UTC)

Three important takeaways from the New York Times' long article on how Facebook and Mega Red, "a premium alternative to fish oil," collaborated on a major ad campaign.

1) Your thumb is a hot commodity.

The prime goal of a Facebook ad campaign is to create an ad "so compelling that it would get people to stop scrolling through their news feeds," reports the Times. This is known, in Facebook land, as a "thumbstopper." And thus, the great promise of the digitial revolution is realized: The best minds of our generation are obsessed with manipulating the movement of your thumb on a smartphone touch-screen

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2) Facebook's advertising works.

Mega Red, reports the Times, reaped twice as much revenue from its Facebook campaign as it spent. If you're curious about why Facebook reported blowout earnings last quarter, there's the reason why. And just imagine what a long, intensively reported feature in the New York Times spreading the news that advertising works on Facebook will do for Facebook's earnings next quarter. Facebook is not going away.

3) We're all doomed.

The Times reports that the evidence that Mega Red's krill oil has health benefits is suspect. Mega Red's own lawyers "won’t let its marketers claim that MegaRed pills actually lead to a healthier heart. They can only suggest it with scientific-sounding language like “supports three markers of heart health”: triglycerides, C-reactive proteins and the omega-3 index."

So, Facebook has proven it can get us to buy things we don't need and didn't know we want. This is, of course, what the business of advertising has been about since the beginning of time, but it's a little daunting to realize how effective Facebook is becoming at selling snake, er, I mean, krill, oil.


Andrew Leonard

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

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