David Card, as usual, has a very thoughtful post on the troubled adolescence of social media advertising.
The problem, as I see it, is figuring out the right way to introduce advertising into what is essentially a bunch of conversations. The current approach is tantamount to stepping up to a couple of people talking and saying, “Your teeth will be whiter if you brush with Pepsodent”. It’s moronic. How can something like that be an effective approach?
(And it doesn’t get much more effective if you have a video of someone singing “You’ll wonder where the yellow went/When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”. It’s the jarring disconnect between the conversation and the ad that causes trouble.)
A better approach: wear a t-shirt with the ad as you talk to your social mates. They’ll ask about it: “What makes you so hot for Pepsodent.” And then you tell them, “It makes my teeth whiter.”
A lot of vendors are going after this sort of thing (FULL DISCLOSURE: our portfolio company Adaptly is one of them), but no one’s figured out yet how to work an ad into a conversation in just that natural a manner. Big unsolved problem.