Sssh Facebook, it’s going to blow over

Earlier this week $FB suffered a sharp drop to $150 before rallying, on news that several states and the FTC had initiated investigations into their role in the Cambridge Analytica affair. The #DeleteFacebook movement continues to remain visible, and Elon Musk famously deleted Tesla and SpaceX’s company pages. The litany of bad news is unrelenting, isn’t it? Advertisers must be leaving in droves, right?

Yet if you search for news on advertisers pulling out, as of today the media has managed to find only three names: Mozilla, a non-profit, auto parts dealer Pep Boys, and Germany’s Commerzbank. Of course if the news continues to get worse, more brands could still desert the social giant, but the slow trickle at this stage is indicative of how most advertisers are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Truth is, Facebook’s wounds are self-inflicted. Any first-year PR pro will tell you never to threaten publications with lawsuits to silence them. Neither is trying to get in front of a story by banning accounts, yet not giving the full context. That’s the opposite of getting in front of the story. Waiting four days while a scandal brews before the world-famous CEO makes a public statement, not too clever either. Cavalierly allowing advertisers to access user data, that’s the biggest sin of all.

Yet why aren’t more advertisers deserting the platform?

Beyond Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google, there aren’t many online platforms for reaching consumers at the scale, accuracy and efficiency that digital advertisers demand today. Facebook already owns two of them, three if you believe ads will one day come to WhatsApp (I hope not). Doesn’t apply to China, of course, but that’s a different story.

Like it or not, Facebook today is an advertising platform more than it is a social network. The majority of our clients use it that way, with ad campaigns that often bypass their brand page. Fan count is already completely irrelevant as a performance metric, and engagement doesn’t resonate as much as conversion does, in this e-commerce age. Most importantly, Facebook allows you to target users precisely, track their user journeys including conversion, and offers the richest trove of insights and metrics.

But Facebook would be wrong to be complacent, and all signs point to them taking this as an existential threat. But I bet that in six months this will blow over, federal investigations notwithstanding, leaving a company that will have found a way to balance privacy concerns while satisfying advertisers’ insatiable demand for user data.

Besides, have you checked out MySpace lately? Don’t bet on there being a viable alternative to Facebook any time soon.


Two Ads I like and One I Don’t

This article originally appeared in Branding In Asia.


“I want them to cry!” said the client with glee, as we concluded yet another campaign brainstorm. Emotional storytelling is such a cliché now: tugging at the heart strings equals emotional resonance, which translates to warm fuzzy feelings for the brand, which aids recall, which leads (hopefully) to awards, which leads to more briefs from aforementioned client. Hopefully. Oftentimes the most tenuous of links to the brand proposition is enough for a client to sign off an ad concept, if one can promise results akin to slicing onions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a purist; I love emotional storytelling as much as the next person. But an emotional ad must serve a higher purpose, regardless of storytelling and production values. It must tie intricately to the brand promise, it should strive to surprise and delight.


It takes an army: Apple’s “Three Minutes”

“Three Minutes”, a video filmed entirely with iPhone X by Hong Kong director Peter Chan, passes the smell test. Critics may cry foul at sighting a Focus Puller in the credits, not to mention a veritable army of crew, but an iPhone on a jib is still an iPhone.  I loved the talented cast, working off a screenplay that perhaps demands too little of its child protagonist, whose only lines are multiplication table recitations. Not much emoting required there. But it works.

A love letter to a vast market pivotal to Apple’s fortunes, Three Minutes taps into the national anxiety that is China’s annual chunyun migration, where hundreds of millions of migrants head homeward for a brief visit. A tense on-screen timer evokes the brevity of those precious few days, metaphorically compressed here into three minutes, and the importance of capturing those memories on your phone. Not just any mobile phone, mind you, but iPhone X, with a camera so superior it can make movies like the one you just saw.


Redefining Wholesome: Honey Maid “This is Wholesome”

Before Black Lives Matter, before marriage equality, before the Muslim ban, Honey Maid, a cereal brand, debuted its “This is Wholesome” campaign in 2014, redefining unconventional families as wholesome, whether mixed race, LGBT, black, or immigrant.

Honey Maid rode the resulting tide of controversy to an elevated affinity with its target demographic, in the process redefining its brand as hip and of-the-times. This may seem quaint a mere four years later, but Droga5 did an admirable job of helping their client blaze the way. Honey Maid then masterfully continued the momentum, producing another video where they asked artists to literally craft negativity into an expression of love. Very clever.

So much wood: SingTel “Mr. Lim’s Reunion Dinner”

Singtel’s “Mr. Lim’s Reunion Dinner’, lauded for its millions of views on social media, doesn’t cut it for me. The story is bland, the acting wooden. Mr. Lim tells a hawker he’s expecting his children home for dinner, one flying in from Sydney, the other from Hong Kong. They of course will disappoint him with last minute absences, so that we can be shown a scene of Mr. Lim dining alone, talking to a picture of his deceased wife.

The denouement is, surprise surprise, his children showing up unexpectedly, but not before realising that next time, they need to coordinate parental neglect. Presumably by calling each other on Singtel.

Apart from bad news being passed around along phone lines, it’s not obvious how this ad ties into Singtel’s services. The son in Sydney calling the daughter in Hong Kong was most likely on an Optus line anyway.