Monday, July 21, 2008

Facebook and its impending redesign

So Facebook is redesigning the profile pages (check Techcrunch for more of users as a way of enhancing the service.

According to Yahoo! News US, it's a "new look to reflect changes in how its members communicate with each other and how they share photos and updates about their lives."

Now, Valleywag is reporting that the new redesign has seen ads disappear from user profile pages -

"Most of Facebook's inventory is junk. And Facebook's new design may help take out the trash. It's no surprise users don't click on ads on profile pages; there's too much else to do."

I wouldn't go that far, but I think over the past 2 months Facebook has definitely dropped its ad standards.

I am a fan of Facebook and its potential - engaged audience, large audience, strong targeting potential (I must stress that word, potential), the platform itself and the functionality. I have used it for campaigns, it generally works.

However I have a few gripes as well.

1. Ninemsn can only sell display inventory. You can't run expanding creative. Ninemsn cannot sell 'social ads'. Ninemsn should have access to all inventory on the site - I can't see the benefit of the current approach.

2. The text based with small image ads that run in place of the skyscraper sometimes are incredibly annoying. There is no quality control and 9 times out of 10 they are not at all relevant to me and I'd imagine most users. If I'm not getting ads for hip hop jackets, it's ads for singles services (despite checking In A Relationship on my profile), gay matchmaker companies or market research companies seeking 'Males aged 30-39 for awesome products'.

3. It is difficult to buy anything integrated on the network. A few AU repping houses claim to have access to FB ads, Facebook sort of have a US guy looking after the market but it's not ideal considering their audience size.

4. Facebook is already running low end performance ads - my belief is once you blanket your site end to end with credit cards ads, Dell ads etc you blow any chance you have of positioning yourself as anything but low CPM. Monetise at any cost ... even if it means annoying your users and scaring off the advertisers who could generate yield.

Hopefully this redesign is a step towards solving some of the above. Taking off rubbish ads from user profiles will probably have a minimal impact on revenue short term. But it does keep users from being annoyed and gives them time to maybe nail the right execution.

But developing a robust ad platform has to be priority 1 for Facebook. Without it, the ad dollars won't come and without that their $15b valuation doesn't really make much sense. There's no shortage of inventory online - it's not like we can't reach the same eyeballs elsewhere ... agencies and advertisers will start asking the tougher questions to publishers - why choose your network over the 100 others we have access to. And if the answers aren't smart, the dollars will move.

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