Friday, July 10, 2009

Facebook's ad voting - fascinating

I can't provide a link, but on my morning commute I heard a 63yo NPR journalist describe how her Facebook ads changed over the past year -- for the better.

A year ago, when she bothered to look, she found large volumes of wrinkle cream and weight loss scams. When she removed her age, the ads became more interesting -- or at least less irritating.

Advertisers were wasting money, targeting her based only on age rather than on other facebook profile data.

Recently, her ads became more appropriate. It turns out that women over 50 voted wrinkle ads off the island ...
Facebook Now Lets Users Vote on Ads (2008)
... Facebook quietly added the ability for users to vote up or down on ads last night. Facebook watcher Nick O'Neill points out that the site has recently gotten rid of the same voting feature that was in the Newsfeed for a short period of time. Will this work for ads?
Initially we thought this would be an ineffective effort, but the more we looked at terrible ads on Facebook and thought about how happy we'd be to vote them down - the more sense it made...
I didn't know about this feature, but it's brilliant in an retrospectively obvious sort of way. I didn't think of it, but then I don't consiously notice advertising of any sort (knowing the limitations of my own mind, I suspect I'm not imagining my ad neglect).

So why can't Google do the same thing?

Well, Google does click through, but Facebook has a strong advantage in this domain. Facebook has strong identity data about their customers. So they can focus the votes they track on a valid sample, and screen out various forms of vote attack.

I wonder what the wrinkle cream scammers make of this development? Was their ad money always wasted, or were the ads both despised and effective? Was Facebook making money on the ads -- in which case why does Facebook care if they weren't working?

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