Facebook and its Chairy faux pas

October 4, 2012 marked a milestone of sorts for the world of Social Media in general, and Facebook in particular. Facebook reached the magic 1 billion number in terms of total active users. To put the enormity of that number in perspective: that's 1/7th of the world's population, and almost as many people as in the entire country of India! And to think they were at half a billion users only two years ago - which means they added the other half in a mere two years; Google+, privacy issues, and the lackluster IPO notwithstanding.

Isn't this a brag-worthy achievement in itself? The fact that there's this intangible product that has touched the lives of a BILLION people across the world in such a way that it has become a ubiquitous part of their online social expression and communication - surely deserves mention?

If I were Mark Zuckerberg, I'd make sure this fact was celebrated and given due emphasis. Apart from the pure PR-worthiness of it, this is a milestone I would have definitely wanted to highlight in the first major mass-media campaign that I commission to mark the occasion. As opposed to digressing and comparing my thriving Social Network to a chair. Whether or not I am a Clint Eastwood fan.

But then, I'm not Mark Zuckerberg. So I can't help but wonder: what was he thinking?! I understand the noble underlying intention was to draw a parallel between Facebook and Chairs - in terms of their being ubiquitous in people's daily lives. But the approach and even the "big idea" leaves a lot to be desired. See the ad for yourself here.

And here's the voiceover copy, in verbatim:

"Chairs are made so that people can sit down and take a break. Anyone can sit on a chair, and if the chair is large enough, they can sit on it together and tell jokes, or make up stories, or just listen. Chairs are for people. And that is why Chairs are like Facebook."

Before you get a chance to let that last profound statement "...Chairs are like Facebook" sink in; the Ad goes on to include Doorbells, Airplanes, Bridges, even the cosmic Universe in the list of things Facebook is supposedly like. Again, I do get the noble intention they had of driving the point of "connecting people" home - but seriously, was this the only way to do it? Seriously, 'Chairs are for people and so is Facebook' - that's the best they could come up with? Heck, by that logic, even coffee (or beer, for that matter) is for people. And people share things over a cup of coffee (or a mug of beer). So Facebook's like coffee or beer too, right? Oh, wait. I see where they're going with this now: Facebook's like a chair, a cup of coffee, an airplane flying in the sky, a bridge between two sides of the river, and like the limitless Universe out there. Ohhh - Facebook's like everything in life itself. Wow. I think I have goosebumps. 

Okay, I should probably be a little kinder. All they're trying to say is: Facebook connects people. But you know something? Even Nokia made that point better, years ago. Which is why, I don't really get the point Facebook's trying to make through this Ad. Also, who exactly is the audience for this Ad? This isn't Year-One of Social Media or Facebook: We know how social networks work, and what they do. So here's a thought meant for the marketing guys at Facebook to hear: Why don't you simply focus on the fact that you're not just some social network anymore - you're an essential part of people's lives. Period.

And that's exactly why, Wieden + Kennedy Portland, I have to disagree with you. Facebook is NOT like a chair. A chair is something that's sitting somewhere in my room. Sure I use it, but I don't care about it so much. It's a chair, for God's sake! I could replace it, or sit on another chair. Are you then trying to tell me that Facebook is just like some piece of furniture, and as replaceable as a chair? Why would you want to proactively downgrade your status in the lives of your 1 billion active users? Speaking of whom; how come there's no mention of that milestone either - even as a tiny little baseline on the last screen of the Ad?

Must say, Google+ did a much better job with their Ads by talking about what they shrewdly knew were the best features of their network: An Ad focusing on their 'Circles' feature, and an Ad showcasing their 'Hangouts' feature. The fact that not as many people actually use Google+ actively, as do Facebook - is the topic of another blog post! But the point is, at least Google did a good job communicating their features to people who weren't aware, and they managed to present the technology aspect in a human way.

I'm not sure Facebook has managed to convey any of its features well at all. Sure, we don't really need to be educated about what Facebook does at this point in their lifecycle, but the 1-billion milestone deserved a muscle-flexing Ad reasserting their position not just in the world of social media, but in the daily lives of regular people. Unfortunately, the 'Chairs' campaign is far from asserting anything positive and is unlikely to do Brand Facebook any favor. And quite frankly, it seems like an internet meme just waiting to happen.

Posted on October 8, 2012, in Brand Campaigns and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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