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How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the buy-this dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this look at how Facebook tries to make and sell "thumbstopper" ads compelling enough to get people to stop scrolling through their news feeds. With its trove of knowledge about the likes, histories and social connections of its 1.3 billion users worldwide, Facebook executives argue, it can help advertisers reach exactly the right audience and measure the impact of their ads — while also, like TV, conveying a broad brand message. Facebook, which made $1.5 billion in profit on $7.9 billion in revenue last year, sees particular value in promoting its TV-like qualities, given that advertisers spend $200 billion a year on that medium. "We want to hold ourselves accountable for delivering results," said Carolyn Everson, Facebook's vice president for global marketing solutions, in a recent interview. "Not smoke and mirrors, maybe it works, maybe it doesn't."
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How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil

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  • Snake Oil (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone claims they know their readers / visitors to a 'T' and tries to tell you that they can help your ad home in to a chosen group of visitors / readers is selling snake oil

    • Re:Snake Oil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:09AM (#47598905)

      Millions of people voluntarily give all kinds of relevant information about themselves to Facebook. Even without any serious data mining, and ignoring the people who deliberately create garbage data accounts, Facebook probably already have more accurate demographic data about their users than most advertising channels. For example, knowing about major life events like someone getting married or having a baby are advertising gold for some markets.

      At the scale they're working on, even trivial analysis of the underlying graph is probably quite informative as well. If 60% of your friends are interested in a certain thing, there's a fair chance you are too, even if you didn't explicitly indicate this.

      • Re:Snake Oil (Score:5, Informative)

        by cnaumann (466328) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:17AM (#47598939)

        If you are using a credit card in a store like Target, they not only know your likes and dislikes, they know exactly what you buy. Sometimes they know more about you than your family.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/ka... [forbes.com]

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Lets be clear there. If you use a STORE credit card, then they have access to both the card owner info as well the itemized transaction records. If you use any other credit card (just a generic visa/mastercard/amex/discover from chase, citi, your local credit union, or whatever bank), then as far as I've ever hear, the bank does not get any access to your itemized transaction details, so they merely know the total amount spent. Likewise, the store has access to your itemized transaction details, but they on

          • by Old97 (1341297)
            Yes, but then there are the data brokers who put that all together for their customers. Selling and exchanging data is a big business. A company can buy the raw data in some cases or share their data where it goes into a pool and the broker provides (sells) you details about customers, prospects, leads, partners, etc.
          • What? They are the retailer. Of coarse they have access to your itemized transaction records purchased through them, its right there in the POS at checkout.

            They know your full name and the zipcode you shopped at along with the purchase history with that card. That's probably enough to identify you and cross reference the address book to figure out the rest of your address. They can then target your snail mail, if they want. Or sell the info to their suppliers, so they can do the same.

      • Re:Snake Oil (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Monday August 04, 2014 @10:31AM (#47599427)

        Here's the problem: Facebook will never not show you an ad. At the end of the day, if you don't fit a better model, they revert to lowest common denominator advertising. "Over drinking age? Male? Cue up the alcohol ad with women in it!"

        And that's the thing, Facebook's advertising as a result is like all the other advertising in the world: you know where it is, you know it mostly never applies to you, so you tune it out. If they make it more prominent, you turn on ad block. Which says worlds about their actual confidence in their data: they don't have any. They don't know what you will do next. Which is why they always show you something - because they can't afford not to. They won't leave ads turned off, then strategically show them right when you show a high probability of being interested in X and could be swayed to a brand. They have no idea when that is, or what it will be.

        • Here's the problem: Facebook will never not show you an ad.

          I'm not sure whether that's strictly true, but I'm also not sure why it's relevant. Even if we assume Facebook intends to show a fixed X amount of ads to each user per visit/unit of time/number of other entries in their feed, Facebook ads run on an auction system. The targeting available to advertisers is quite objective about who is and isn't included in the potential audience, and any given ad is only going to be shown to qualified users. But those qualifications can be as simple as the country you're in

        • Re:Snake Oil (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hoggoth (414195) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:11PM (#47600357) Journal

          I find that Facebook, Google, and every other "targeted" ad system does the same thing: they show me ads for the thing that I just bought and won't need to buy again for several years.

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Just like how all the junk mail to refinance my home began as soon as I finished the first financing.

          • That's almost certainly what the industry now seems to call retargeting: you visit a vendor's site and either a bug belonging to the ad network or some sort of code added by the vendor themselves notifies the network that you were there, and possibly which page(s) or item(s) you appeared to be interested in.

            The vendor can then use whether you'd been there before as a criteria for targeting their ads, and the network can prioritise showing you those ads in whatever allowance they have because in general they

        • Re:Snake Oil (Score:4, Informative)

          by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Monday August 04, 2014 @03:37PM (#47601949)
          Interestingly, I've noticed that leaving abandoned shopping carts triggers ads with the same products, but discounted. I've used this more than once to get a 10-20% discount
        • Facebook doesn't promise that your ads will only be shown to people who care about them, they offer the ability to target ads based on fine-grained characteristics. I often see ads for bands and DJs that I like when they're coming to my area. No one's guaranteeing I'll buy tickets, but if I "like" Bassnectar and "music festivals", and Bassnectar is playing a music festival in the midwest, (aside from the fact that I likely already know about it) targeting ads to people like me is about as effective as you c
      • by tipo159 (1151047)

        A problem is, for all of the data that they have available, at least among the group of people that I have discussed this with, Facebook is not doing a very good job at analyzing that data. For example, they grouped a friend into the "Politics (US Conservative) audience" despite the fact that he scored 90+% Green and Democratic Party (and under 15% Republican) on the "I Side With ..." FB application.

        • A problem is, for all of the data that they have available, at least among the group of people that I have discussed this with, Facebook is not doing a very good job at analyzing that data. For example, they grouped a friend into the "Politics (US Conservative) audience" despite the fact that he scored 90+% Green and Democratic Party (and under 15% Republican) on the "I Side With ..." FB application.

          And where did you go abouts verifying what group Facebook put your friend in? Maybe they just grouped him into the "asshats that flood facebook with political rants" category. In that case, they probably analyzed the data perfectly.

      • Based on the ads that I see, either I've done a really good job of not giving Facebook much information about myself, or Facebook's data mining is really, really bad. Every once in a while I'll see an ad for someplace like Newegg, but most of the ads I see aren't even remotely interesting to me.
    • I help run the NORML chapter in Wisconsin. I can target ads for our page to people who "Live in Wisconsin" and "Like 'marjuana', 'legalization', 'weed', etc". Users tell Facebook their demographic info and their interests, Facebook lets advertisers target ads based on that information. What part of that system is deceitful?
    • Not at all. I actually click on Facebook ads. I can't think of any other ads I've ever clicked on. Whatever juju they got going works for me apparently. And I say that as a Google AdWords buyer. Some things work great as Facebook ads but not what I sell. Sometimes knowing your visitors to a T doesn't help you. I could definitely use Facebook's demographic information to find precisely the sort of decision maker who would buy my product but when you're on facebook you aren't looking to make a busin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can see why their pill advertiser wanted to advertise as
    Schiff are convicted (US) scammers
    http://www.law360.com/articles... [law360.com]

    proving once again that Facebook (and others) adverts tell me who to avoid not who to trust with my purchases

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:25AM (#47598655)

    Now I'm sad about the length of news I really couldn't care less being about four times longer than news I'd like to know more about.

    And they even include corrections (as fundamental as changing Caroline to Carolyn).

    In science news, to get more than four paragraphs in the NYT one has to reach Mars riding a comet harnessed with carbon nanotubes. And replacing "light years" with "ping-pong balls" wouldn't be deemed deserving of errata.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      I'm with you. I just read the minutes of a meeting full of advertisers selling a dubious product.

  • dear facebook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dominux (731134) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:30AM (#47598673) Homepage

    I have a problem with my fish oil sales, it tastes like shit, it does not outperform a placebo and costs twice as much as other competitors that also do nothing. Can you help?

    Of course Facebook can help, that is exactly what social media is for.

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      Where can we get these "placebos"??????

      • I hear they also keep tigers away. You don't see any tigers around here, do you?

        • by mjwx (966435)

          I hear they also keep tigers away. You don't see any tigers around here, do you?

          Sir, I say sir, I dispute your claim... well I will as soon as I've finished fighting of this bloody great big Bengal Tiger.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    LOL

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:35AM (#47598695)
    FB would love advertisers to believe their questionably ethical compilation of your particulars can be used against you.

    Advertisers want a piece of the place where, FTA, one in 5-6 online minutes is spent.

    I have left instructions for my family per what to do in the event of medical brain death, or evidence of a Facebook account... but I repeat myself.

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:37AM (#47598705)

    When Facebook says they have 1.3 billion users worldwide, do they count inactive accounts such as mine, which I had to create to make sure nobody else could create a fake account about me and fill it with slander?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:48AM (#47598781)

      I had to create to make sure nobody else could create a fake account about me and fill it with slander

      Rerouting auxiliary power to the tinfoil hat.

      • Weird Al has you covered.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:21AM (#47598951)

        I had to create to make sure nobody else could create a fake account about me and fill it with slander

        Rerouting auxiliary power to the tinfoil hat.

        I know a couple of people this has happened to. It's usually a teenage prank. Unfortunately the OPs idea doesn't work. Everyone I know that this happened to already had accounts and the perpetrators just spelled the name slightly different.

        I just flat out deleted my account years ago. And trust me, that is no easy feat. You have to put in a request to remove the account, then they put a 2 week delay on the request. If you open the facebook site at all it restarts the counter. Given that facebook is nested on just about every site this was difficult. It happened so often I finally blacklisted every domain they own in IPTables on my firewall, then routed my phone through a VPN to the same firewall. At work I had to dump my browsers history, temp files, etc... so I wouldn't accidentally log in. What they considered a login at the time was crazy. Things might be easier (or harder) now, I wouldn't know. But I do know a lot of my friends and relatives are deleting their accounts now. They saw I did it, and didn't vanish into obscurity, so why not them to? There does seem to be a frequent problem of "What do you mean you didn't know there was a cookout?!?!" or "You didn't see the wedding photos?!?" but, to be honest, I haven't missed anything I'd have cared to see/attend anyway. If you really care that I show up, you got my number and you know I don't use facebook. If my attendance isn't even worth a phone call, I'd rather not attend.

        • by gsslay (807818)

          Anyone can create a Facebook account with any name. They do not have to have unique names, or be unique in any other way. So there is no need to spell a name slightly differently to set up a fake account. Nor does setting up an account with your name stop anyone else creating another account with your name.

          • Last time I googled myself, I saw several FB accounts on the first page. They all were spelled just like my real name, but none of them were me (I have an account, but it wasn't on the first or second page on Google)

          • And so you cannot stop anyone from creating an account with your name, set the town to yours, the phone number, etc. At which point, someone doing a casual search might think the fake account is yours and your job application goes directly in the trash.

      • I had to create to make sure nobody else could create a fake account about me and fill it with slander

        Rerouting auxiliary power to the tinfoil hat.

        My college friends threatened to make an account for me if I wouldn't. The implication was that it would be more "interesting" than the one I would make for myself.

    • It counts the 17 (seriously) that I have so I can do my stuff, and it does include the two (2) that cannot be used because they are banned for life. (I was testing the limits)

      And, I know it counts the one I actually do use under an alias.

      *I* am not on Facebook.

      I know from first-hand knowledge that Facebook game players have have at LEAST two (2) accounts apiece.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People can have the same name on Facebook. If you created one someone could literally take the pictures and any piece of info and create an identical profile that they control.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Engineers gave you the internet, people, and you hand it back to a company that is worse than all off TV. WTF is wrong with you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:57AM (#47598833)

    For the first time in my life I feel good about being a misfit.

    I do not have a facebook account nor a LinkedIN account for that matter - don't get me started on them!

    Anyway, reading that article it reminded me of something Henry Ford said (Bio on Netflix) with regards to GM/Sloan's success:

    To paraphrase:

    People were shrewd consumers looking for value. Now, they want to be sold to.

    When an advertising company like facebook or Google can make billions and fantastic margins, while companies who make things or provide services that actually add value to people's lives just survive, I just wonder where people's heads are. Everyone works so hard, but throws money on shit. And opportunities are drying up for work because of off-shoring, automation, and our demographic changes in our society.

    It's like the future of this country is going to be Medical (especially elder) or sales. That seems to be the only opportunities left.

    If you want to get rich quick - like Mark Zuckerberg - figure out how to see to people. Selling anything.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm taking my library card and getting out of here. If I believed in God, I'd become Amish for Christ's sake! It's the only way to get off of this merry go round!

    • When an advertising company like facebook or Google can make billions and fantastic margins, while companies who make things or provide services that actually add value to people's lives just survive

      Yeah! What valuable service has Google ever provided!?

  • Two words (Score:5, Informative)

    by TVmisGuided (151197) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .pmuj.nala.> on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:58AM (#47598839) Homepage
    AdBlock Plus.
    • by GrubInCan (624096)
      What i would like, is the ability to right click an ad and 'open in /null'. Basically cost the advertiser a click, without me having to close the opened tab.
      The more clicks they have to pay for, the less crap we might see.
      • A great idea.
        I do like AdBlockPlus though. I did not even know that Facebook had ads.

        • Even better? Run two ad-blockers. This will give you almost no white-list overlap AND you can fool some sites that whine about ad-blockers by turning one of them off, and leaving the other on.
      • by amaurea (2900163)

        I suggested this to the adblock plus author (or was it the adblock author from before adblock plus?). Basically: every URL that is blocked is recorded during page load, and then later, when the browser isn't doing anything, silently downloaded and discarded in the background. Sadly, the author was vehemently against that - likening it to fraud. Now, if the owner of the webpage did this himself to generate fake views, that might be fraud, but I don't see why this would be fraud or even immoral when it's page

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          How about an adblock like program that still used the ads, but downloaded them very very slowly (so as to not slow down your web viewing) but then don't show the ads until the finish loading, or redirected the ads to a different window that the user may or may not decide to view. So the excuse against fraud is that you didn't want to wait for ads to finish downloading, or you didn't want to go look at the extra ad window.

  • by sasparillascott (1267058) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:59AM (#47598853)
    Advertisers are Facebooks customers, users are the product - and the company (led by its senior executive leadership) has a history of making ethically unsound decisions with "their" product (i.e. users) and there is no reason to expect those poor decisions (with regards to its users) to stop.

    I've heard one person remark that Facebook stripmines their users personal details & that seems to be an accurate analogy for how the company operates. JMHO...
    • Advertisers are Facebooks customers, users are the product - and the company (led by its senior executive leadership) has a history of making ethically unsound decisions with "their" product (i.e. users) and there is no reason to expect those poor decisions (with regards to its users) to stop.

      I've heard one person remark that Facebook stripmines their users personal details & that seems to be an accurate analogy for how the company operates. JMHO...

      I've heard this a lot... it's not accurate. You're both customers.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:00AM (#47598861) Homepage Journal

    Dress sweat pants are a thing, which I know only because of Facebook.

    • Now I know it because of you. They look glorious. Maybe not $100 each glorious, but goddammit I think I might be finding out soon.
  • by CaptainDork (3678879) on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:11AM (#47598915)

    Facebook and other online "commercials," are going to have to borrow from the more mature TV advertising business model and fold ads in with content. Product placement will increase, as well.

    The other day, on Jeopardy, the category was, Ford Models. The answers were, like, Explorer, Fusion, etc. Blatant advertisement.

    On Shark Tank, the sharks did a schtick where Barbara says, "Oh, let me take a picture of that using my smart phone on T-Mobile!"

    Regular program-interrupting ads are doing the job.

    Online sites have much more malleable tools to work with. There will be more targeted ads, ads embedded in the content, and content will be blocked for those using ad blockers.

    Email spam is so yesterday.

    Content-embedded ads is the way to go.

    • In content ads have always been a thing, for example the number of starbucks cups in Fight Club is a well known joke (hell there is some site called starbucksfightclud that exist only to document these cups). And The Philadelphia Experiment had like a 2 minute advertisement for the brand new futuristic coke in an aluminum can. But some ads nowadays have taken it to extreme, such that if I am going to continue watching a TV series is as much about the ads as anything else. Castle, season 1, had an entire ep
    • I'm reminded of John Oliver's closing segment about native advertising [deadline.com] on Last Week Tonight, which covered the NYT's practice of this and loss of the wall between the two halves of the business.

      The entire body of ad copy for MegaRed was repeated through the article, and the story was very conciliatory towards Facebook's advertising practices and their efficacy. Even though the article makes a point about how the jury is still out about fish oil supplements, it paints like a two sided issue and makes sure th

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Best to just avoid TV in that case.

    • See I would have been all "Zhao Lei" and "Lexi Boling" because, you know, I could.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @09:26AM (#47598979)

    No one has commented so far about the creepiest aspect: according to the NYT article, Facebook knew how many of the people they showed the ads actually bought the product.

    You see, stores sell your personally identifiable information regarding everything you buy to data brokers, and Facebook bought the data from the data brokers. Ergo, FB knew what percentage of people they showed these ads subsequently bought the product.

    It's enough to make me seriously reconsider using anything but cash for certain purchases. How many insurance companies buy data regarding your alcohol and tobacco purchase frequency, for example?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't be ridiculous. That's called "conversion tracking", and it is neither new nor a Facebook invention. It's the very basis of affiliate marketing.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Conversion tracking from an online ad network that shares cookies with an online store is a completely different animal than "we showed you an ad in your browser and then cross matched it with everything you later bought in brick and mortar stores".

        Which is what happened here.

        • by phorm (591458)

          Maybe they know a percentage based on the "look at me with my brand new [X]" posts.
          Alternately, if it's a camera, when pictures come with EXIF data saying they were taking with the new "Ubercam XYZ"

  • How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil

    How I hate these "you" headlines. Facebook has never sold me anything.

    Also these ten amazing life hacks will not change my life, and these aren't the 20 superhero movies I'm looking forward to.

  • My dad is a christian mobile DJ. So I ran a targetted ad campaign to anyone marked as "engaged" and christian in a 100 mile radius. He got about a million views and it cost several hundred dollars and he got a grand total of zero leads. We even had several hundred clicks. We're the best in the area, have a perfect reputation, and our prices are very competitive. Also I personally made out website so there's really no reason that anyone should see it and decide against us. We also have no competition w
    • Many people call themselves Christian but would not want a Christian Rock reception. You can target fans of some of the CR bands, evangelical preachers, etc. Start as narrow as possible and expand until you get some bites. A custom campaign url is probably useful for your tracking.

      • That is unfortunately true. We typically get 40-70 jobs per year though (remember, 52 weeks in a year) just no leads from Facebook. All radio stations and word of mouth.
    • I hit both of your target demographics, and have family ties to the Christian music scene (my cousin in law has toured as the Gettys' bassist, and was next door neighbors with one of Anberlin's band members, my dad wrote Mark Heard's biography, frequently plays and/or speaks at SoulFest, and organizes the Vermont Conference on Christianity and the Arts), and, well....I didn't realize "Christian DJs" were a thing people hired, and now that I know, I still can't imagine hiring one for a wedding reception. May
    • If you are Dad is the only DJ in 100 miles then you live in a very rural area. More rural than where I live in Kansas. I've been to very few weddings that have had a DJ that wasn't family or a close friend and the same with bands.

      If a friend was having a wedding reception and they needed a band or DJ I could have them a of about 5 bands and a dozen DJs that would do it for free.

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      I have never had an advertising campaign work out, and I am not convinced that anyone else has either. Especially on the internet. Unless the advertising is free, it is not worth it. I wondered out of the $7.9 billion in revenue that Facebook made in ad revenue, how many dollars worth of product that ended up putting in the hands of their advertisers. Facebook IS huge, and their are a lot of click happy people, so maybe it resulted in a a few hundred million in sales. Maybe even a billion. More than $7.9 bi
  • ... that my friends have recommended and posted about. Once in a while I post about an effective product or amazing deal.

    There's a simple algorithm for achieving such results: produce an impressive product.

    For everything else, there's a CPM (no, not the z/80 kind) ad program. Word of advice: make the ad as incipid and vapid as possible, to save on non-converting clicks.

    • by Thagg (9904)

      Bill, this advice "make the ad as incipid[sic] and vapid as possible, to save on non-converting clicks." makes so much sense, and is so obvious, that it must be happening already. This was pioneered by the the Nigerian scammers (originally snail-mail, now mostly email.)

      It does make me disheartened about the future of the ad-supported internet.

  • I find it quite hilarious to see so many posters complained about the ads in Facebook, in the /. forum that have ads a hundred times worse.

    OK, maybe not 100x, be definitely worse. On my phone, I get pop-over ads to blocks 1/4 of the already small screen, with the (X) so small that the phone would register as a click on the ads instead (not the intended result, I am sure, LOL).

    Then when clicking on articles, half the time the page opens at the bottom to immediately show the ad, so I have to manually go back

  • Oh, *krill* oil.

    I was thinking I'd remember an ad for Krell oil. But I probably couldn't afford anything imported from Altair IV anyway.

  • Damn if I test this theory out.

  • I don't get adverts on Facebook? Nor do I get game requests, pokes or any other annoying thing that intrudes upon my idle time.

    I installed the Facebook Purity [fbpurity.com] browser extension, and all of that went away.

    I now browse FB with no trouble, no bugging, none of the "Eat this and never diet again!" adverts that look like some kind of tropical disease. I also get a lot of hand customizations that give *me* far more control of Facebook than they're really happy with, which is why they had to change their page fro

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