When Facebook Really Needs Friends- They ‘Like’ Television Advertising

The Social Media Giant recently unleashed a massive television advertising campaign to rehabilitate their troubled brand.

The broadcast television advertising industry just got a big endorsement from an unlikely source: Facebook! Recently under siege from civil lawsuits and congressional scrutiny due to allegations that the FB privacy policy permitted the release of personal data of over 50 million users without their knowledge, Facebook has turned to TV to spearhead their brand rehabilitation efforts. When the chips are down, which they certainly are for the #1 social media platform in the world, and Facebook needs to advertise, they advertise on TV. What does Facebook know about television advertising that the rest of us don’t?

As Americans, we have a heightened sense of our civil rights and the extent we’ll go to protect them are well documented. This country was founded by people who left their homes and risked everything because their rights of free speech, religion, assembly, protection from illegal search and seizure and the right to privacy were being violated by governments and monarchies. Belief in these rights is so deeply entrenched in American DNA that we’ll even send support and resources to other countries if we feel these rights are being violated or abused by governments. Facebook understands this and realizes that they need to quickly get on the right side of this issue or the happy-go-lucky image they once had as a place where friends innocently congregate in cyberspace will change into one that is secretive, deceptive and abusive- all in the pursuit of money. The truth is, Facebook’s privacy policy was actually created by a lot of really smart people to specifically allow advertisers to obtain personal data from users and their friends so they could continue to advertise to them through retargeting and tracking on Facebook and other websites. The language that gave FB the right to send this data to advertisers was actually buried deep in their user agreement- you know, the one we all accepted without reading. And because of this policy, advertisers and their dollars flocked to FB. Now that they’ve been caught with their hand in the ad money cookie jar (even if it was largely due to the political division in the country), they’ve got to fix it.

The big question is “Why would Facebook use TV advertising to fix this mess instead of just advertising on, well, Facebook?” The last time many advertisers looked at television (just prior to buying ads on Facebook) they saw sensational headlines about how fewer people were watching television and that many millennials were “cutting the cord” or opting out of cable television so they could watch television shows through digital on-demand services like YouTube TV, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, Roku or Amazon Fire. If that was all true, why would Facebook advertise on network TV? It was a head-scratcher for me until I did a little research, and the answer is clearly based on demographics, trends, and trust.

The first reason that Facebook chose television is that their critical American audience is older than many people think it is[i]. As of January 2018, only 20% of Facebook’s US users are under the age of 24. Only 25% are in the desirable demographic of 25-34, and in all user groups under 34, there are more males than females. 54% percent of Facebook’s users are over the age of 35, and all age categories over 35 have more women than men in the group. These numbers will continue to skew older as FB’s population ages and fewer under 24-year-olds are adopting the platform, opting for Instagram and Snapchat instead. The over 34 demographic group spends significant amounts of money (they are easily the most desirable demographic for home builders), and this is the group of Americans that watch broadcast television. Someone once asked the famous bank robber John Dillinger why he robbed banks, and he replied, “because that’s where the money is.” Ask Facebook why they advertise on television, and they’ll tell you the same thing. because that’s where the money is. The Facebook users that advertisers want are over 35, and they watch television- a lot.

Second, Facebook has already conceded the under 24-year old audience to SnapChat and Instagram. And even though US Snapchat users may be getting older, 53% are under 35 (28% are under 24 years old) and the overall trend for the app is down[ii]. Facebook reportedly lost 2.8 million US users under 25 last year and many are reporting that when 2018 is in the books, the numbers will be similar. This group accounted for some of the 50 million fewer hours that people spent on Facebook than they did in the previous year. In the high stakes game of audience triage that Facebook is playing, these young cord-cutters comprise a small and shrinking percentage of Facebook users (and revenue) and are just not worth saving.

Third, broadcast television use by the critical Facebook audience (GenX) is declining, but not nearly as much as the 5% that the Facebook audience has already declined this year alone[iii]! And, what is critical, GenX TV viewers are not replacing TV with Facebook, they’re simply getting their video fix using YouTube and other on-demand platforms (which accounts for the heavy YouTube play that Facebook is making right now). On-Demand video has simply replaced broadcast video consumption. In the last 5 years, television viewing by Americans over 35-49 has only dropped 8%, just over 1% per year[iv].

Regardless of what we hear, TV is still king when it comes to time spent with media. Americans spend nearly 4 ½ hours a day watching the television[v]. If you want to reach Americans with advertising, you do what Facebook did- you advertise on TV.

And, not only is television the most popular form of media, US adults trust it more than any other source when it comes to making purchase decisions. If you want to reach adults that spend money, you go advertise on television. [vi]

Finally, in conjunction with the aggressive TV advertising campaign Facebook launched, they’ve also initiated a heavy YouTube digital video campaign featuring video pre-rolls and periodic commercials that play before or during YouTube videos. This strategy supports a recent media study conducted by Accenture for ABC / Disney[vii] that illustrated that multi-platform campaigns that included broadcast TV advertising elevated the impact and effectiveness of all other advertising in the campaign. Without multi-platform television, all forms of advertising just don’t perform as well, but adding television to the media mix puts the whole campaign on steroids.

One can only imagine how effective a platform Facebook would have been had it not allowed the wholesale private data harvesting of its users and their friend’s information. This was a technique that was either not possible or simply not permitted by other platforms. It clearly tipped the “advertising scales” in their favor and made Facebook an incredibly popular and effective platform for digital advertising often to the exclusion of other advertising options. It was also part of the reason that Facebook became a $470 billion corporation. Can you imagine how the advertising world would look if credit repair companies, hospitals or financial institutions treated your personal data or your family’s and friend’s personal information the way Facebook did? What a free bonanza for pharmaceutical companies, banks or credit card companies that would be.

In the interests of complete disclosure, I’m anything but an uninterested bystander in this conversation. A large portion of my time is spent telling home builders about the benefits of television advertising, even when the data I present seems to fly in the face of popular sentiment and press releases. I’ve seen Facebook advertisement spending explode in our industry, often to the dismay of those of us selling more traditional and well-documented forms of advertising media such as television or billboards. So when I saw Facebook commercials on television, you can be sure I sat up and took notice.

Most of the home builders that I work with are enamored with the under 35 demographic, but they make their money from buyers who are 30-55 years old. With the average new home price increasing significantly and mortgage rates on the rise, many under 30 buyers are simply getting priced out of the market or they’re considering less expensive pre-owned homes. They’re spending time on Facebook, but they’re not spending time in new home models. Buyers who are 35 years old and above are going to become even more important for many builders. Television will get your product in front of that critical demo, help them decide where to spend their money, and it will enhance all the other advertising that you do.

I’d recommend that every builder in the new home industry take a page from the Facebook playbook and start advertising on television to attract home buyers- and I’ve got just the place for those commercials!

[i] https://www.statista.com/statistics/187041/us-user-age-distribution-on-facebook/

[ii] https://www.statista.com/chart/8789/snapchat-users-by-age-group/

[iii] https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/new-report-shows-facebook-usage-is-in-decline-which-may-be-behind-the-late/517586/

[iv] https://www.marketingcharts.com/featured-24817/attachment/nielsen-traditional-tv-viewing-trends-by-age-group-in-q2-2017-dec2017

[v] https://www.blizzardinternet.com/news/marketing/time-spent-with-media-infographic/

[vi] https://www.tvb.org/Portals/0/media/file/TVB_Media_Comparisons_2016.pdf

[vii] https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-multiplatform-tv-advertising

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