Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Facebook Gives Ad.ly's Celebrity Endorsement Business the Boot

Ad.ly thinks there’s big money to be made getting celebrities to sell stuff using social media platforms. But it says Facebook won’t let it set up shop.

Ad.ly says that at Facebook’s insistence, it has stopped selling celebrity endorsement ads on the social network, a program it rolled out last year.

Ad.ly is best known for the work it does with celebrities on Twitter, where it says it generates thousands of dollars a month for famous people who use their accounts to pitch products. Its most recent high-profile client: Charlie Sheen, who used Twitter to promote Internships.com last month.

Last fall Ad.ly started selling a similar product for Facebook, which was also supposed to let celebrities use their status updates on behalf of marketers. Here’s a sample pitch:

Ad.ly CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh says Facebook didn’t complain about his ads initially. But he says in March the company informed him that Ad.ly was violating the social network’s terms of service.

Facebook appears to be upset about two things: 1) It argues that in at least one case Ad.ly has created a “fake” profile for a celebrity, which Ad.ly says it needed to do for technical reasons involving Facebook’s API and; 2) it doesn’t want any users using their Facebook profiles to sell stuff, period; it wants that to happen on Facebook user pages. [UPDATE: Ad.ly says they have always used pages, not profiles, to pitch stuff].

I’ve asked Facebook for comment but haven’t heard back yet. [UPDATE: Here's Facebook's statement: "We feel that it is important to take action when we see repeated violations of our Terms and activity that is misleading to our users and partners. Adl.ly was told many times that their activity with personal profiles was not allowed. They nevertheless attempted to circumvent the rules and were caught. We've officially told them to stop, they say they have, and we consider the matter resolved."]

It’s easy enough to see both sides of this argument: Ad.ly thinks it has a product that marketers and celebrities like, and that users are okay with. And Facebook doesn’t like the way Ad.ly does business.

Gullov-Singh argues that Facebook’s decision means it will miss out on a revenue stream, but that it won’t actually stop celebrities from selling stuff on the platform.

“All that’s going to happen is this going to go underground, and people will be getting paid, and it won’t be disclosed,” he says.

But  in the end, there’s no debate here: It’s Facebook’s platform, and Facebook’s rules.

 


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