UPDATE: Unilever has admitted its Dove app does not replace ads on Facebook for rival companies.*EARLIER: Unilever’s new Facebook app promoting the Dove soap brand could start a civil war among advertisers on Facebook if the technology behind it spreads: It replaces competing ads with ads for Dove, whether the competing advertiser likes it or not, according to the YouTube video promoting it.
It’s not clear how Unilever has managed to rig the app’s technology to remove ads paid for by another advertiser. In the app, users can send positive messages to their friends such as “The perfect bum is the one you’re sitting on.” Those messages appear on friends’ pages in place of ads promoting diet products.
The Dove app specifically targets those annoying “belly fat” ads that are seemingly ubiquitous on Facebook. But it’s not hard to imagine the technology being used by any advertisers, in any category, to encourage its fans to essentially delete ads for rival products appearing on friends’ Facebook pages. Think how Apple’s fans champion their brand for instance; or how eagerly Hunger Games fans are about talking up the books and movies.
And those aren’t even the most traditionally aggressive categories for advertising. What happens when Ford figures out it can replace ads paid for by Toyota? Or when Pepsi realises it can sub-out Coke?
Because the app relies on users choosing messages for friends, the technology appears particularly well-suited for political campaigning. Any activist Facebook user could trigger cause-related or election campaign ads to appear on their friends’ pages.
Nick Keenan, department head, implementation, planning and investment, at Media Com, told Australia’s B&T magazine that it was bad for advertisers, who could no longer be assured their planned ad flights would actually run where they want them to:
“I don’t know how you can then plan ahead for something that may or may not appear because someone else’s creative campaign is seized by the collective social universe in Facebook. They can just replace it at will.”
But Steve Allen, CEO of media agency Fusion Strategy, said giving consumers more control over media placement would actually make advertising on Facebook more efficient:
“This will not upset any thinking advertiser, for two reasons; You only pay for the ads served/clicked anyway, and why put an ad to a consumer whom does not want it? That is wasted space, wasted impact, and has no effect.”
Here’s the video:
*NOTE TO READERS: The new, accurate information information on this story can be read via the “UPDATE” link at the top of the page. The section of the story under the label “EARLIER” has been left in its original form, even though it is based on misleading information from Unilever. You can also see the updated story here.
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