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September 3, 2008

What’s Better For Marketing: Sweet or Sour?

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Everyone’s talking about Google Chrome and the new Twittergate, but I don’t want to. So I won’t. Instead I’m going to vent some frustrations with Facebook and the way people choose to market themselves in general. I don’t promise that anything below is going to make sense.

So, here’s the thing. There’s yet another media outlet talking about how many of the ads Facebook shows on its Web site are offensive. This time it’s the Washington Post making the claim but I’m pretty sure I’ve read almost the exact article four times over the past few months, all on different sites. If you’ve been to Facebook you know that some of their ads are, well, not for the sensitive. They’ll call you fat, mock you for being single and alone, tell you that your teeth could be whiter, and that you need a better job. It basically induces the same feelings of self doubt and emo-ness that a 20 minute phone call to my mother does, only there’s arguably less yelling. (Hi, Mom!)

In her post, Rachel Bechman discusses that she let Facebook in on the big news that she’s engaged only to become bombarded with ads telling her how to lose weight and threatening that if she doesn’t click the link she’ll be a fat bride. Who wants that? You’re not driving people to click on that ad; you’re emotionally sabotaging them for the day. Don’t be a jerk. You know that ad is only going to make her pick a fight with her unsuspecting fiancé later who has no idea why she’s upset. It’s not right to play with people’s domestic bliss like that.

I know that I will never click on one of those ads because I don’t like the way it feels. I don’t support people who make me feel bad. Period. I don’t care if it’s a blog post, a tweet, an ad, etc. And I know I’m not the only one turned off by those ads because I’ve read the blog posts and tweets of people the exact same thing. So I wonder why folks keep writing their ads that way. It doesn’t sound like the clickthrough rates are so great either. Why can’t marketers (and people) find a better way to stand out?

The more time I spent in the Internet marketing world, the less I get it. I don’t see the appeal in being trashy or writing content to appeal to the lowest denominator. It’s like flame bloggers who get Internet Famous by being a jerk online. They don’t have the talent or intelligence to be interesting on their own so instead they take cheap shots at those who are or make spectacles of themselves in public. It is so damn sad. There are plenty of better ways to get links/authority/respect/customers, so why revert to that? Why make a name for yourself as being a jerk.

What’s really interesting to me is the number of big name brands running these ads on Facebook. Big name brands that are calling you fat and telling you have a muffin top. Big name brands mocking you for being in debt. It’s like they don’t realize that people hold grudges. I am going to remember the name of the dating site that started putting thoughts in my head that I’d be single and alone my entire life simply because I removed my relationship info from my Facebook profile. I didn’t change it to single; I simply removed what was there when common sense reminded me that perhaps broadcasting your relationships on the Internet wasn’t a necessity in life. Do you really want to be the one to tell an emotionally distraught girl clutching the ice cream container that she’s damaged and undateable? That’s not a brand association I’d want to be building.

And I don’t think Facebook wants users to associate itself with these ads either. They’ve amended their ad guidelines to try and reduce the number of offended people coming to their site; however, the ads still remain. The marketers going to Facebook somehow think it’s a good idea to target people this way. I suppose if you’re really dense it could make sense: Attack an insecure person with claims that they’re fat and they’ll click the ad looking for a way to change. I just don’t think that’s a good way to market yourself. Isn’t it more effective to encourage the soon-to-bride to get in shape to look great in her dress on the big day than to scare her into obsessing over her muffin top? Or is being nice in advertising overrated?

Are ads that scare or “attack” you doing better in terms of clickthroughs or are the marketers on Facebook trying to be “witty” and give people what they think they want? If it’s the later, why do marketers think people want to be abused? Is that really the society we live in: Say whatever you need to say to get attention? I sure hope not.

I always believed that, while being mean may make people take notice, they only way you’ll get them to act is to be inspire them with goodness. But maybe I’m just a naïve bunny. A naïve bunny who likes rainbows and cupcakes and boys who haven’t yet reached age 8. And if so, I’m okay with that.

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3 responses to “What’s Better For Marketing: Sweet or Sour?”

  1. Kat writes:

    I completely agree with you, but sadly there’s no law against bad advertising. Mean advertising is just a subset.

    What gets to me is that there are companies wasting money on advertising that just clutters up people’s online experience. Everybody loses.

  2. Matt Dionne writes:

    No one has the right to make you feel anyway way you don’t want too. Unless you give them that right.
    Now that statement would seem to say that the reason for those ads is our fault. That is not the point I am trying to make. I feel ad companies need to operate with integrity just like everyone else. It just seems the only way to fight bad advertising like the examples you provided is to ignore them. Prove to the ad companies it does not work. Sadly people click the ads and just prove their methods to have validity.

  3. Chat Man writes:

    2 Kudos for naive bunnies, everywhere!

    One of the most pleasurable rants I’ve read in a long, long time. Thank you very much, Lisa!

    Chat Man



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