Industry to Zuckerberg: Apology (Mostly) Accepted forums

Help Support forums:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Jun 24, 2007
Reaction score
Industry to Zuckerberg: Apology (Mostly) Accepted

December 10, 2007

By Mike Shields

NEW YORK Perhaps they are caught up in the holiday spirit, or maybe everybody loves a good mea culpa, but most digital media buyers are in a forgiving mood when it comes to Facebook's recent string of Beacon blunders.
Buyers say they are generally satisfied with the way Facebook has responded to the recent storm of controversy generated by Beacon, its new advertising technology designed to automatically alert members about their friends' online purchases. Most don't plan to steer clients away from the popular social networking site. In fact, many buyers credit Facebook for its willingness to be daring in this nascent space, where the rules of advertising are still being written.

To review, on Nov. 29, after a protest group led by had formed on the site, Facebook was forced to make Beacon more user consensual. Then last week, the company decided to allow users to opt out of Beacon entirely, and its youthful CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, issued a lengthy and frank apology via a blog posting. "I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation, and I know we can do better," he wrote.
Now, even as the ad industry waits to see how the site's users respond, most aren't inclined to treat Facebook as radioactive. "I would not talk clients out of it," said Jeff Cole, vp of media in's Chicago office, who credited Facebook for pushing innovation in the space. "It has to make sense for clients, and I'm going to watch customer feedback…but I admire Facebook. They are first to the marketplace, and they bear the brunt of the backlash."

Reuben Steiger, CEO of the social networking specialty agency Millions of Us, echoed that view. "Facebook has to be applauded for pushing the envelope and then course-correcting," he said. "They need to ask for help in getting it right. We'd encourage our clients to accept it. The nice thing about this social era is that a CEO can ask for forgiveness on a blog. The market will judge him."

Despite a willingness to move on, plenty of buyers have judged Zuckerberg and his team as either being slightly naive or just plain arrogant in rolling out Beacon.

"I'd say we're disappointed," said Scott Shamberg, svp, marketing and media, Critical Mass. Shamberg said that most brands would have trouble ignoring Facebook's huge user base and its lingering buzz, but they are likely to be more cautious. "We were in love with the idea of being able to talk to that community. But we're disappointed they missed something that is so glaringly obvious."

What was so glaringly obvious, said buyers, was that Facebook needed to talk to its community before launching Beacon, and needed to be far more up front about its intentions.

Still, Ethan Morris, vp, associate media director at Digitas, said that as long as Facebook delivers on respecting users' privacy, while continuing to offer marketers ways to tap into the site's social nature, his agency is interested in working with the company. "We don't want to jump to conclusions," he said. "We need to see just what the changes are."

Yet not everyone is ready to exonerate Facebook. Adam Shlachter, partner, group director, MEC Interaction, said his team is advising clients to stay away for now. "We're sitting out," he said. "We want to protect our clients."

Even though Facebook has taken measures to make Beacon ads more transparent, Shlachter suspected that users would now be more skeptical of any commercial messaging on the site. "They've jeopardized the trust and the bond that they built up with these people," he said. "The damage has been done."

Shlachter suggested, as did other buyers, that Facebook might benefit from adding some more seasoned marketing talent at the top. "[Zuckerberg] is such a visionary," he said, but added, "He has such a lack of experience in the business world."



Latest posts