Just how many times must I mark an ad on my Facebook page “offensive” or “misleading,” before Facebook stops posting it on my home page?
When I first started using Facebook, I was impressed by their apparent embrace of “permission advertising.” Facebook appeared to understand the “What I Want, When I Want It” nature of 21st-century marketing. Each advertisement on my home page solicited my approval or disapproval of the ad. If you indicate you dislike an ad, they even provide an easy-to-use checklist of objections, so that the user can offer specific feedback as to the problem – that one found the ad offensive, or misleading, or repetitive, or irrelevant, etc. It seemed they were trying to put match the ads on Facebook users’ home pages with the individual preferences of the users.
I thought this showed great good sense in marketing, that somebody at Facebook was reading their Seth Godin—until, that is, I sent in a negative response regarding an ad campaign I considered misleading.
I followed FB procedure, indicating the ad was “misleading.” The ad immediately disappeared — and was replaced a few seconds later by a nearly identical ad for the same company. The content of the ad, which was the problem, was unchanged; what did change were the colors and the font. It took 3 reports until the ad disappeared. But a few hours later that day, when I returned to my Facebook page, the ad I thought I was rid of had returned. I did another “Dislike” report, and was again subjected to the same cosmetic, not substantive, changes. Perhaps, I thought, it just took a day or two for Facebook to catch up with these reports.
A couple of days later I logged on again. Like Freddy Kreuger, the ad again arose before me. I upped the ante, now labeling this ad “offensive.” I repeated the reporting procedure the rest of that week. And the next week. Still now, months later, despite my consistently and repeatedly reporting I find these ads misleading and offensive, they appear every day on my home page.
This experience has significantly altered my opinion of the company doing the advertising. They had a clever TV ad I used to enjoy. Now, I loathe this company. I long to read that they are in bankruptcy proceedings. If Facebook ran ads for VooDoo dolls bearing this company’s logo, I’d buy a case of them.
Had this company simply posted their ads, with no feedback mechanism, I would’ve glanced at their advertisements, vaguely disliked them, and not thought about them again.
What stokes my anger is the pretense that my opinion matters, that I have some sort of influence over which ads are presented to me. I apparently have as much influence over the ads on my Facebook page as I do over who tucks a flyer under my windshield wiper.
When a new pizzeria in town does this, I don’t mind. It’s the best they can do with the tools they have. If it’s a nicely done flyer, I’ll probably even order a couple of pizzas.
But Facebook’s advertisers can, and should, do better. Advertising that solicits, then ignores, individual consumer preferences does no one any good.