BOTB: The Brandon Show

(The Brandon Show)

I’ve mentioned before, in the pages of Social Media Is Bullshit, that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said some pretty misleading things on behalf of her company.

(Not to mention, if you recall me talking about The Big Club over at SiliconANGLE, you can see The New York Times and Sandberg provide a great example of that right here.)

More recently, during a Facebook earnings call, Sandberg claimed Facebook was the top source for driving subscriptions to HBO Now thanks to their retargeting capability.

Retargeting, by the way, is that creepy thing a lot of big companies do where they track your activity all over the Web.

Let’s say you visited WWE.com because you hate yourself and keep subjecting your entire family to three miserable hours of bad writing and worse acting every Monday Night. Now, whenever you go to other places, unless you clear your cookies in your browser, you will see ads for WWE.com popup on other places you visit.

No. Can’t imagine why so many people are resorting to ad blockers. Can you?

Like Sandberg’s previous claim that Facebook was helpful for small businesses and an important place for them to set up a presence (LOL), this claim concerning the retargeting success is false.

And it’s false for reasons that should be obvious, but probably aren’t because when it comes to the tech companies, the people covering them are (usually) sucked inside a reality distortion field and can’t (or won’t, because they don’t want to lose a potential job in the future) want to tell the truth.

The Truth

1. Any time a tech company uses a celebrity or big media company (like say, one of the largest media companies in the world) as an example of success, you should be skeptical. That’s like if Lebron showed up one day and decided to play for your high school basketball team. Of course you’re going to win. Of course he’s going to dunk on some poor kid. Of course.

So for you and me, claims like this don’t really mean anything.

It just means a huge brand (HBO) and the big company that owns it (Time Warner) probably spent millions on ads and saw results. Of course whether or not they made their money back, and whether or not those results are what they were expecting goes unmentioned by Facebook. Because duh. And also: Because of confidentiality agreements, it is not possible for the agency behind the ad buy with Facebook, or the brand itself if they coordinated the campaign, to comment on the campaign. So that means …

2. You are only getting one side of the story here. If Facebook is saying the campaign was successful, the other party (more often than not) can’t say otherwise. Especially if it means pissing Facebook off and having them throttle your stuff so no one ever, ever, evveeeeerrrrrrrrrr sees it ag-ain (to paraphrase Chris Jericho.)

So if Facebook says the campaign was successful, then for all anyone knows, it was. Even if it wasn’t.

3. Let’s talk about the campaign itself. Because of the way retargeting works, you’re claiming you successfully caused people to act on something they (probably) were already going to do. In other words, the people who saw the ads likely ALSO saw the (massive) publicity HBO Now received when it was announced, as well as other ads and promotions, and were already going to buy the thing anyway.

Did the ads push that person to act NOW as opposed to weeks from now? Maybe. Maybe not. But when you factor in other variables, the answer starts to look more and more like, “Nope. It didn’t.”

From The Brandon Show!
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