BR Video: The jury's out on advertising and social networking
When WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell and Unilever's Keith Weed locked horns about whether advertising was a comfortable fit on social networking sites last month, they appeared to be reflecting a divide in public opinion.
Conflicting views about ads on sites such as Facebook were highlighted in Brand Republic's street interviews this week.
When asked if they were happy to see brands advertise on social media to help sustain the sites, the public provided a mixed and varied response.
One respondent was adament that social networking sites provide "a good way of advertising".
Another said: "As long as they don’t keep popping up and stuff… you see ads everywhere nowadays so it wouldn’t really have that much of an impact."
When evaluating how acceptable ads are, the size, shape and nature of the ads were all cited as possible deciding factors.
Two people indicated it depends on what product is being advertised, suggesting the more relevant and targeted the ad the better.
Others were less convinced about the idea, with one respondent claiming: "It just interupts what I'm doing. So I wouldn't be keen at all."
However, 39-year-old Sophie offered a more pragmatic approach: "I hate the ads on social networking… but if it’s the only way to keep it free then I would agree."
One said social networking was "more like having a chat," citing Facebook chat app and claiming: "It's not really like a formal letter, it's like more seeing how your mates are".
Others disagreed, with respondent noting: "It's more like modern day letter writing. You can say what you want to say and then that's it. You don't have to carry on the conversation."
The clear divide in opinions come as many of the world’s largest advertisers prepare to significantly increase their digital spend over the next year, with social media expected to be among the primary beneficiaries.
Unilever has pledged to double its digital spend while rival P&G has committed to boosting its digital marketing spend in key international markets.
Facebook, among other social networking sites, has been forced to tread carefully when attempting to overtly monetise the business in recent months.
WPP's Sorrell said: "When you try and monetise it, and they tried for example in the Beacon context and one or two other contexts, in the search context. They've fallen foul of even their most loyal users and have changed their approach within 24 hours, 48 hours."
However, Unilever's new marketign chief Weed believes social networking is like "word of mouth on steroids" with the capability of "pulling together vast amounts of people" using something that was "unique and different".
He said social networking sites will find ways to monetise their offerings and admitted his team were already at work around the world to find "mutual areas of interest".
Last week, research by payment provider Sage Pay found customers accessing an online store via a social media site are 10 times more likely to buy something than other users, claims new research.
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