Facebook Opens the Doors and Media Flocks In

CBS, CondeNet, NYT Rush to Set Up Pages

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Facebook users love to "poke" friends they have linked to on the site, an electronic way to tap a pal on the shoulder, even if they are miles away in a classroom or office. Now aficionados of the popular social-networking site will have just as much opportunity to do the same to advertisers and media outlets who want to vie for their attention and disposable income.
Epicurious on Facebook
Epicurious on Facebook

One day after Facebook unveiled a number of ad innovations, media outlets are setting up shop on the site. CBS plans to promote the recent return of longstanding reality program "The Amazing Race." CondeNet's Epicurious.com has a site offering a recipe for "beef stroganov" from the pages of Gourmet magazine as well as wallpaper downloads featuring cranberries or "salmon roe." The New York Times Co. has also created a Facebook page that allows users access to features such as top news, most e-mailed articles, video and The New York Times News Quiz. The newspaper company has also set up pages for The Boston Globe's Boston.com and its regional media group.

Coke has spot too
And at least one marketer was ready to jump in as soon as it was able. A new page featuring Coca-Cola went live at 4:21 a.m. today, according to a news feed at Coke's new Facebook roost.

Facebook is in many ways going down a path used by MySpace, opening its collection of user-generated profile pages to marketers, who can now populate the social net with "personifications" of individual products and services. Facebook also unveiled a system that lets marketers spread promotional messages virally and what it called an "interface" that lets advertisers analyze relevant activity by Facebook users.

For its part, CBS is using the site to develop an online community of "Amazing Race" fans. The show's page will include interactive content tied to the program, which had its season premiere Sunday -- filling the slot that was to be occupied by "Viva Laughlin," a hybrid musical comedy program that was widely drubbed by critics.

"Word-of-mouth has always been very important in entertainment marketing, but now because digital media has fractionalized the audience so much, we see this Facebook [move] as kind of tying it back together," said George Schweitzer, president of CBS Marketing Group. He likened Facebook as a replacement for the office water cooler, where people often discuss what happened the previous night on their favorite programs. CBS may even use its "Amazing Race" site to seek out people who are predisposed to the show's premise because they enjoy travel, hiking or are from the same hometown as a contestant, Mr. Schweitzer said.

Broader range of ads
Facebook's move seems to be aimed at opening its users to a broader range of ads and promotional techniques. But it's not as if the site hasn't let marketers in before. In August 2006, for example, the company struck a partnership with J.P. Morgan Chase's Chase credit-card division to be the site's exclusive credit-card sponsor. Chase created a social network within Facebook of people interested in learning about or signing up for credit-card services.

Now, however, the site is open for many different kinds of ad placements. A new program called Facebook Beacon provides a way for users to choose to share their activities with their friends on the social network. People who surf Blockbuster.com, for example, might send the titles of the movies they add to their queue on Blockbuster's website back to their friends on the Facebook website. In another example, Coca-Cola will let participating users create, configure and interact with an animated "Sprite Sips" character aligned with its Sprite soda.

Marketing observers have some concerns that Facebook users could be a little rattled when they find their activities on some applications, such as Facebook Beacon, communicated to a broad array of friends. But Sarah Chubb, president of CondeNet, the Condé Nast internet unit, said people are generally interested in talking about hobbies and passions, and so long as advertisers appeal to that dimension of consumer behavior, the ads and promotions could be more welcome.

That said, there has to be some sense of when to approach and when to hold back, she suggested. "I think Facebook is being very careful to limit the number of things you'll see in any given day, a pretty conservative limit. We are being pretty conservative about the kinds of messaging that we're doing. It's not going to look like an ad. It's going to look like an invitation to try it yourself."
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