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Facebook Posts its Status Update on Television

by David Crichton, Grip Limited / September 25, 2013

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

Facebook has recently launched Facebook Home. The elevator pitch is essentially this: people don’t talk to apps, they talk to people, so instead of seeing a screen of apps on your phone, you see all the friends you interact with, instead. At first blush, it seems like a cool concept – bringing the phone back to what it was invented to do — connect people. Whether we are seeing a shift in how mobile devices are used or simply another way to waste time, remains to be seen. But I digress, the point of this article isn’t about how cool Facebook Home may or may not be. It’s about the “cool” way Facebook chose to advertise it: with television.

Over the weekend, Facebook ran a television commercial, created by Wieden and Kennedy touting the new offering. Just to recap: Facebook used television to sell a social media product. Traditional advertising, used to sell what many are calling the demise of television and/or branding. A “share” or “pull” medium sold by “push” media. I won’t comment; I’ll just lay the irony out there. Another point of interest is the commercial itself. It makes no sense, and really gives no clues as to what Facebook Home is or does. Apparently I’m not alone, as the many “comments” reflect the same sentiment.

The spot depicts your typical scruffy-faced, gen-something-gadgeter on a plane playing with his phone, as a bunch of weird stuff starts to happen around him – people in overhead compartments pop out, cats run around the cabin, etc, end on logo. And that’s pretty much it. If I hadn’t come across the online video while searching for the spot, it’s likely I would never have been able to understand what the spot was saying. The real idea is in the video, albeit not as “creative”.

What’s even more interesting is once I knew what the spot was trying to say, I couldn’t help but think of the “original” version of the spot, done by Cliff Freeman and Partners for Prodigy, back in 1995. That’s like a century ago in internet years. But the spot (and the rest of the campaign) was brilliant. One spot showed a woman smashing a banjo on the side of a deserted dusty road, screaming that she couldn’t learn to play it.

Up rolls Barry White (yes, The Prince of Pillow Talk, himself) in an old green bus, with a route sign that reads: MUSIC. The doors open and Barry rumbles, “Havin’ problems baby…beatin’ up your banjo?” The woman gets on the bus and all manner of musical chaos breaks out; banjo players, gospel singers, disco fever. The spot ends with a replication of Prodigy’s graphical user interface – one of the first to use one – showing all the different user groups available. A voiceover explains, “Music… just one of the many user groups on the new Prodigy”. Now keep in mind, this was when the internet was in its infancy, and you actually had to PHONE for a subscription to Prodigy, who was attempting to group interests together on one platform to make sense of the this new medium.

As a consumer you got it: your computer is the bus, pulling up to all the stops that interest you along the information highway (Yes, that’s not just a joke phrase in meetings, unfortunately that is what we used to call the internet). Similar to the Facebook Home spot, except far clearer in its explanation for something not understood, or even known about for that matter.

Social Media may be the new marketing darling, but as we often stress within our walls, it has to be grounded in the basics of advertising. What are you selling, who are you selling it to, and what is the simplest and most compelling way to tell them. As Mr. Freeman said in referencing his spots, “We’re talking in a language that everyone can understand.”

The original by Prodigy:

The video :




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