Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Case Against Facebook’s Mobile Ads


Facebook thinks it has figured out how to sell mobile ads, after all. And it made sure to tell Wall Street last month.

But at least one analyst isn’t convinced that Facebook has cracked the code. BTIG’s Rich Greenfield has seen a lot of Facebook’s ads on his phone recently, and he is unimpressed.

His main beef: Facebook, which should be armed with an enormous amount of information about him, keeps showing him ads for things he doesn’t care about, like display ads from Target and Samsung. He’s particularly baffled by the ads he keeps seeing from Walmart, because he lives in New York City, where Walmart doesn’t have any stores.

“There simply have to be better brands to promote to us and the daily repetition of the same promoted brands is irritating,” he writes (free but registration required). Then Greenfield suggests Sheryl Sandberg would be better off not running any ads on mobile at all until she can figure out something better.

That’s a non-starter, of course. Especially since Facebook says it’s now generating $500k a day from its mobile ads, just a few months after launch.

I asked Facebook reps for comment and they declined. But if they did have something to say, I imagine it would be something like: “The thing is, part of advertising involves seeing ads for stuff you don’t already like. A pretty big part, actually — that’s the ‘top of the funnel’ branding dollars we’re chasing. And who knows — maybe Walmart knows you live in New York City and still wants you to see its ads? Just like the ones they run on TV? Also, we’re just getting started. So chill out.”

Greenfield put together a video that documents all the ads he doesn’t love — and a few he thinks are okay.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik