The social graft

“Once every hundred years media changes,” boy-coder turned big-thinker Mark Zuckerberg declared today at the Facebook Social Advertising Event in New York City. And it’s true. Look back over the last millennium or two, and you’ll see that every century, like clockwork, there’s been a big change in media. Cave painting lasted a hundred years, and then there was smoke signaling, which also lasted a hundred years, and of course there was the hundred years of yodeling, and then there was the printing press, which was invented almost precisely 100 years ago, and so forth and so on up to the present day – the day that Facebook picked up the 100-year torch and ran with it. Quoth the Zuckster: “The next hundred years will be different for advertising, and it starts today.”

Yes, today is the first day of the rest of advertising’s life.

I like the way that Zuckerberg considers “media” and “advertising” to be synonymous. It cuts through the bullshit. It simplifies. Get over your MSM hangups, granddads. Editorial is advertorial. The medium is the message from our sponsor.

Marketing is conversational, says Zuckerberg, and advertising is social. There is no intimacy that is not a branding opportunity, no friendship that can’t be monetized, no kiss that doesn’t carry an exchange of value. The cluetrain has reached its last stop, its terminus, the end of the line. From the Facebook press release: “Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends – such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant – with an advertiser’s message.” The social graph, it turns out, is a platform for social graft.

The Fortune 500 is, natch, lining up. Coke’s in, big-time:

The Coca-Cola Company will feature its Sprite brand on a new Facebook Page and will invite users to add an application to their account called “Sprite Sips.” People will be able to create, configure and interact with an animated Sprite Sips character. For consumers in the United States, the experience can be enhanced by entering a PIN code found under the cap of every 20 oz. bottle of Sprite to unlock special features and accessories. The Sprite Sips character provides a means for interacting with friends on Facebook. In addition, Sprite will create a new Facebook Page for Sprite Sips and will run a series of Social Ads that leverage Facebook’s natural viral communications to spread the application across its user base.

Infect me. I’m yours.

Facebook, which distinguished itself by being the anti-MySpace, is now determined to out-MySpace MySpace. It’s a nifty system: First you get your users to entrust their personal data to you, and then you not only sell that data to advertisers but you get the users to be the vector for the ads. And what do the users get in return? An animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.

32 thoughts on “The social graft

  1. Kendall Brookfeld

    I briefly worked for a company doing an instant messaging app that tied into MySpace and similar stuff, and I suddenly found myself immersed in this kind of ridiculous marketing fluff. Marketers/advertisers do delude themselves, probably because they live in that world every day and lose touch with reality, but also because conventional advertising is under serious threat and they don’t know what to do about it.

    On the other hand, some of these cheesy promotional schemes really work and people, esp. the kids that marketers covet, willingly participate. You have to cast your mind back to childhood to understand some of this stuff, and one “creative” guy the company hired was sought after precisely because his forty-year-old body contained a juvenile mind (which, predictably, meant he was a complete flake).

    I agree with others: RoughType has become a must-read.

  2. Linuxguru1968

    >> I briefly worked for a company …

    Is there an echo in RT? Why do people only “work briefly” for these web 2.0 type companies? Inquiring minds want to know ….! ;)

  3. spiraltri3e

    Well said. Even though I only ever really dipped in and out of Facebook, I still feel strangely betrayed.

    The tracking-you-across-the-internet thing is particularly distasteful.

  4. eenymeeny


    Super take on the subject and as refreshing as Sprite isn’t.

    On the subject of personal data and Facebook, I recently queried them on what exactly they actually delete when one leaves the service. Those who have tried to will know that Facebook actually says words to the effect “Hey, leave, OK! But log in with your old email any time and all your profile stuff will magically re-appear!”.

    Since I don’t need to be Einstein to realize that with Facebook “canceling your account” obviously != “deleting all my data thank you”, I wrote them an email asking about what actually happens.

    Here is their reply:

    “If you deactivate, your account, and any information associated with it, is removed from the site. However, we do save your profile content (friends, photos, interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate someday, your account will look just the way it did when you deactivated.

    If you want your information removed from our servers, we can do this for you. However, you need to first log in and delete all profile content. Once you have cleared your account, let us know, and we’ll take care of the rest. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

    Very helpful Facebook, very helpful.

  5. Eric Gonzalez

    Excellent post Nick. It strikes me that FB is just webbifying the Harley Davidson playbook of conversationl marketing.

    The funny thing is that the biggest side effect of this is a hot mergers and acquisitions sector in 2008. Just watch those law firms profits soar..

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