Electric Shadow

Hot & Cold Branding: Facebook Home (The Commercial)

Since Facebook requires you to sign in to embed videos, here's an AdAge story where they have it embedded.

The ad is done by Wieden & Kenedy (W+K for short), who are generally pretty great at fun, spunky clips that entertain and engage (like the "Dance Pony Dance" one for Three.co.uk). This one reeks of a different kind of spunk.

Those "Like"-ing it on Facebook, I assume, are doing so as endorsement of their respective Facebook addictions, the fun music, or what they see as a cool new version of their timesink of choice. Everyone critical of it, like me, are mostly responding to how the advert actually highlights all of the most negative or annoying things about Facebook: the force-fed sensory overload, the head-in-the-phone syndrome, and the narcotic-like nature of being hooked on using it.

Facebook itself has driven a false comfort complex on a massive scale among my generation, most of those younger, and, believe it or not, many who are yet older. The illusion of "Friends" and "social" interaction takes the place of actually assessing who you are and why you are that person, and how you actually relate to the world. You feed the machine, and therefore you are empowered by the machine in return. The guy in the ad looks like he's on heroin or oxycontin, floating through humdrum everyday life. They're marketing Facebook like an addictive drug, and people have been hooked long enough that it doesn't seem weird. Mark Zuckerberg's recent interview with Wired reads to me like he's rather disconnected from reality:

Q: Let’s talk about News Feed. People have complained that they’re missing important stories from friends and instead are seeing sponsored content. How do you find the right balance?

Zuckerberg: Everything that we have seen shows that ranking content is good for people. If you only have time to look at 10 or 20 stories, it’s much better to have the best ones at the top. I think that’s a better experience than missing your cousin’s announcement that she’s pregnant, because it appears 30 stories down. We run experiments all the time where 1 percent of users get an unranked feed and all the metrics that we have show that those people’s experience is meaningfully worse.

The absolutism in his rhetoric makes his opinions and estimations sound like facts. Someone will probably write a book about the enormous behavioral disruption that Facebook has created (even though MySpace may have started it).

Back to the ad, let's look at what its functional goals appear to be and how it does (not) accomplish them.

The ad is supposed to be 1) selling the HTC First "Facebook Phone" to people, and 2) Facebook Home in general. Instead, it communicates that there's a cool new Facebook interface, which most will assume is just a new app that will work on any Android phone. The messaging is so vague, I would be surprised if iPhone owners don't assume that they'll be able to "upgrade" their Facebook too.

The ad's biggest problem is that it is a servant of two masters, and good to neither in its service. Unless you pay a whole lot of attention to this crap like I do or you might, this ad doesn't help parse much or any messaging other than "isn't Facebook WAY cray? Woo!". Tuba, by the way is not generally used cinematically used to denote fun or a heightened sense of reality. Rather, it is generally associated with bumbling, goofy slapstick.

During the course of writing, I figured out how to swipe the embed. Here: