TV Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Targeting the Money

May 29th, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

Moonrise Kingdom

Go see this movie! ...we know you want to...

I came across a kind of shocking figure the other day while reading about the Facebook IPO. It appears Facebook ad sales generated $3 billion in revenue in 2011. That’s as much money as JP Morgan appears to have lost recently. Whoops.

But here’s an even more brain-wrinkling number: traditional television ads generated $68 billion in revenue last year. You know what you could buy with that extra $65 billion? Bill Gates.

But here’s the real question: how many television ads missed the mark entirely? How much bang for their $68 billion bucks did television advertisers really get in 2011? Think about it – when is the last time you saw a TV commercial, and then immediately went out to buy that product?

It was a Super Soaker, wasn’t it?

Zeroing In

As we’ve discussed before, the beauty of Facebook pay per click ads lies in the ability to target your audience. If you don’t care about what grandmothers in Cincinnati think about your bicycle shop in New Orleans, you don’t have to show them your ad. But if you really want to move some spokes and pony up the big bucks to advertise on the major networks, everyone is going to see your commercial, whether they care or not. We won’t even get into DVRs. Fast forward feels like a minor miracle every time some idiot in a gaudy suit starts shouting at me about some car sale I don’t care about.

What I do like, on the other hand, is the movie Rushmore. At some point I probably sought it out on Facebook and liked it. Took me 30 seconds, and made my day a little brighter. Months or even years later, I see an ad for Wes Anderson’s new movie, Moonrise Kingdom, next to my news feed on Facebook. Up to this point, I had no idea that movie existed, but will I go see it now? Possibly.

More Hit than Miss

Now, if you look at the picture of my recent Facebook ad experience, you will see a second ad for SEO, and a third for Orleans Shoring. The picture on the SEO ad makes me want to go buy a donut, but that’s about all. I have no interest in joining some anonymous “Largest SEO Community,” but Facebook at least knows I have an active interest in SEO. Orleans Shoring, now that’s a wash. Can’t win every time.

But how many TV commercials have you fast forwarded through this week? How about this month? How many hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars were thrown your way while you were waiting impatiently for Ted’s baby announcement to load on your phone? The answer is incalculable, of course, but the point is that it’s a wash — literally and figuratively. The messages are so numerous and all-encompassing that they’re easy to tune out, while the hyper-targeted Facebook ads offer a precise and effective alternative.

So as Facebook chomps away at the massive amount of advertising dollars out there, what would you rather see? A commercial aimed at the largest possible audience, or an ad targeted at you?