— Uneven Distribution.

Do Social ads suck?

The below is a bit I wrote for Marketing Mag last year. I completely forgot about it, but then it was published this week. The question posed was “Do low-impact formats handicap hyper-targeting?”. Interestingly, in the months since this was written Facebook have moved to be less reliant on ‘social’ and more reliant on ‘behavioural’ targeting data through FBX, indicating a slow but clever move to being a hybrid ad/data company rather than a pure ad company. Head over to Marketing Mag to read the other responses.

Regardless of how targeted or how social display advertising is, it needs to be acknowledged that this is a low-impact, low-performing format.

Putting ‘hyper-targeted’ and ‘social’ in front of something doesn’t necessarily mean a lot beyond hype and perhaps a slightly higher cost per impression. Yet there seems to be an assumption in the market that social media advertising allows a level of targeting previously unfathomable by ‘traditional digital’. This is not true.

Meaningful, accurate audience models can be built outside of social platforms – it’s simply a matter of how well you can manage and model data.

The assumption that hyper-targeted social is the next big thing stems from the fact it’s a lot simpler to explain how you can create highly-targeted audiences with social data than it is to explain how to do it with less-obvious data. The former just requires an understanding that every detail of your life is available to Facebook. The latter actually requires hard maths, good technology, and clever people.

The truth is, the fact I visited a brand’s website is far more meaningful than the fact I like a brand on Facebook. And putting a banner ad in front of me, or a promoted post on Facebook, is not the best use of that data.

So what is all this data useful for? How about actually making stuff that people want to interact with? Or generating unique and previously unknown insights about your brand and your audience? Or using data and conversations to develop new products?

We need to move away from actually thinking display advertising is an effective format that we should continue to expect growth from. Whether it’s hyper-targeted and social or not, display advertising is a low-impact format that we need to evolve into something much, much better.

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