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Having worked in online advertising for almost five years, I’ve become accustomed to ignoring most of the ads I see online, whether they come in banner, pop-up, or text form. Don’t even get me started on spam e-mail – I used to write it. It was complicated and lucrative. It took wild creativity and a lot of risk.

The underbelly of email marketing

A thrilling field, for sure.  I came in each morning eager to see the results of last night’s e-mail drop – did I manage to increase conversions by improving the subject line? Did the text only drop outperform last week’s? Did that whitelist we sent that shower gel offer to convert or was it a waste of a good list?

We labored daily to analyze the results of hundreds of email drops, making adjustments to our metrics as needed and keeping in mind that we weren’t comparing apples to apples. It was nice to see the results of your work in numerical form – write a persuasive email and make a grip of cash. Improve a struggling offer, and the sales guy who booked it would get a crazed email from the client asking if it was possible I could write for them (and only them) full-time.

We laughed.

Eventually the shady practices that propelled the industry started to piss enough people off, and the business model of the company I worked with came undone. I moved on to less offensive (albeit still troubling) pastures – writing for reality TV – and the immediate benefit came in the form of friends who finally stopped harassing me for filling their inbox and junk mail folders with garbage. It was nice.

What Facebook is doing differently

But I digress…take a look at this:

It’s an example of the type of “user-generated” engagement ads being displayed to Facebook users. Normally I’d ignore them but lately I’ve noticed they “come” from friends, rather than from a sponsor. Ads will read something like “Kathy just became a fan of Clickbank” and show Kathy’s photo, or “Violet just joined the group “Women in Advertising” and feature Violet’s photo.  Hmm.

The beauty of relevant advertising – it works

Many of the ads are business related (I belong to several entrepreneurial networks), some are about politics (lots of political groups), and others are about art, music, religion, and world affairs (see my Facebook profile…oh wait, you can’t…it’s private). 

I have to admit, I’m impressed. Facebook has got me down. If they happen to serve me an ad I don’t like, I can click the ‘thumbs-down’ icon on the lower right hand of the ad and let them know the ad is not for me. I’ve actually begun rating the ads just to generate new ones. It’s via Facebook ads I’ve discovered two useful networking groups, a new band I absolutely love, and a play I’m now covering for an online rag. I think sometimes I log on to Facebook just to check for new ads??

I’m not sure. And that’s why it’s so brilliant.

Mark Zuckerberg, you’re my hero (well, at least one of them…).


6 thoughts on “Why I Started Paying Attention to Internet Ads (aka How Facebook Changed My Life)
  1. edwin says:

    I had not even seen realized that the ads had the thumbs down button…i think i’ll start using it more often since 99% of the facebook ads i see are pure garbage.

  2. I used to agree…then they started serving me hyper relevant, interesting, and useful ones. A very strange thing, but I’m not complaining. It’s good stuff.

  3. Jossen Rod says:

    Targeted ads, nothing new. Just slightly more effective.

  4. Alison Quinn says:

    Wait, can we back up for a sec here…writing for reality TV? Are you telling me it’s not all real?! I mean…umm…I don’t watch reality TV, definitely not watching it right now….

    Anyway, I hope Edwin’s ads start to get a little more relevant after the recent discovery of the thumbs down button! 🙂

  5. Ali, not to worry, reality TV is totally real. I was just editing…for cohesion…right.


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