Weird yes but “we are not alone.”

I don’t know which ad agency, if any, created this ad for Facebook but I “like” it. A lot. In the news –somewhat controversially- for spending enough money to bail out Greece on a texting application, it’s nice to see Facebook doing a bit of image advertising that’s just plain fun.

Not that Facebook needs to build awareness but they could use a bit of freshening and, for me, spots like this do it. Instead of marketing some new feature, Facebook goes old school (how ironic is that?) and comes through with advertising about the very thing that made Facebook cool in the first place: community.

In this case it’s people who dig Sci-Fi. We see a bunch of geeks sporting costumes of their favorite Martians just being real and that’s about it. We hear the iconic theme music from 2001 A Space Odyssey. And then the wonderful tagline: “We Are Not Alone.”

It’s a great line. Clever in the obvious way it pays off the concept. Smart because it deftly highlights the original magic of social media (and Facebook in particular): the fact that there are a few billion people on earth and each one of us possesses interests and passions that both unifies and differentiates us.

Even if you like the spot, you could argue Facebook has no call to advertise. By definition, its users do that with every post.

Yet, I do think it’s time for some advertising. Not to get more users per se but to build its brand with all of us who do use it. Most of us aren’t going anywhere. But some of us are. Moreover, living on Facebook has become somewhat of a chore. We dutifully post images of our families and link content to our friends but the magic has subsided. Some of us have grown weary of the ritual.

And that’s what I like about this commercial the most. It reminds me of when going on Facebook was fun.

“I hate my parents almost as much as Facebook.”

I keep hearing about Facebook’s plummeting popularity among teenagers. That it has become uncool for them, partly because so many of us parents are using it. Gross! Or that it has become so commercial that it’s lost all of its cred. Ew!

I don’t dispute that Facebook is losing its young audience. Maybe even drastically. (It certainly is with the children in my house.) However, I absolutely do dispute the direness. I’ll even argue it’s a blessing for Facebook.

Unless they’re ripping off bling from Paris Hilton, the vast majority of teenagers don’t have any money, prestige or clout. Their reputational currency is and always will be so freaking overrated.

If I’m Facebook I’m happy my platform is being taken over by Boomers and Millennials, to say nothing of brands and advertisers. Let the teenagers go hang out in front of 7-11 or where ever the online equivalent of that is. It’s called loitering. No transactions are being made, accept for maybe a few blunts and/or the occasional Diet Dew.

“Did you “like” Thelma’s post? She learned how to Twerk!”

So, why do all these stories paint Facebook an uncool loser? Is it because we are so youth-obsessed we literally cannot think straight? I’m afraid that’s part of it. Ironic, given how little respect most people have for teen-agers in general. (Christ, when I was 17 all I could get was arrested.) Why is it we think everything about teens is dubious (their opinions, music, fashion, decisions, choice of friends, etc) except for the one thing that really is dubious: their demographic importance?

Maybe this explains why Facebook hasn’t bothered defending their position among teens. (Nothing like their ire over accusations of not having a viable business model) They are a public company now. They know what herds the cash cows roam in. And it ain’t the adolescent ones.

Status update: “Posing with the Beaver!”

One of the wonders of social media is that it allows us to present only what we want of ourselves to the world. Wrinkles, warts and divorces remain hidden. We put our best face forward and keep ugliness and negativity far from curious eyes. We show only virtues and rarely defects of body and character. Frankly, we are being more than pleasant. We are presenting idealized versions of ourselves: who we aspire to be versus (perhaps) who we really are. Facebook is the textbook example but the myriad other microblogging platforms provide ample camouflage as well. Duh, you say. Why would anyone want to share anything less than bliss in his or her personal life let alone Tweet about it?

The dilemma (if dilemma is even the right word) is that everyone is living a kind of virtual lie and one that grows bigger and deeper with every status update and adorable photograph we upload. Say a gal posts only sugar and spice and everything nice; her idealized self, the woman she hopes to be and wants others to think she is. But what if that same person is, in fact, seriously depressed or even suicidal? Is it a kind of betrayal to her friends and family to be falsely presenting all that positivity? Is it dangerous? On the other hand, is bad news better left unsaid? Does it fall under the category of “too much information?”

Status update: “I ripped Bob’s face off for betraying me!”

I don’t know the answer. After all, I’m just as shiny and happy on Facebook as you are. I post photographs of my adorable children just like you do. I am happy. We are “totally enjoying dinner at Café Louise!” Or I am “so looking forward to Lily’s dance recital tomorrow.” And so on. The bitter argument I had with my spouse last night is never communicated. My disdain for dance recitals is avoided like the plague. God forbid my numerous Facebook “friends” think I have challenges at home or am anything less than a perfect husband or father.

Et tu?

When I scroll through your Facebook pages I rarely see anything but delighted and happy people. Sure, you post snarky comments about this politician or that pop star but when it comes to you and yours you are as positive as a Disney Princess.

Status update: “Gary may be gay but our love will last forever!”

Some people are braver than others: like the man who shares his battle with cancer or the woman who opens up about her struggle to land a job. So, yes, there are plenty of examples of self-disclosure taking place online. Yet, the vast majority of us don’t “go there.” Our Facebook pages are like a fifties-era sitcom. Sis and Johnny love school and sports and going on vacation. Father’s knows best. And mom is always “That Girl!”

I don’t expect any of us will change this “Life is Beautiful!” approach to social networking but I am calling bullshit. Life is messy and complicated. Relationships implode. People get sick and die. Children are maladjusted. In the end shit happens all the time. Just not on Facebook.

Mean girls stink!

Strong enough for a man but made for a woman was Secret antiperspirant’s slogan for decades before its patriarchal bent finally rendered the line obsolete. From Leo Burnett, the tag served its mistress well, managing the tricky position of being both for ladies as well as for removing odors.

Thankfully, women are no longer secretive about desiring strength and power. On the contrary, empowered women are fashionable, sexy and ubiquitous. Frankly, the most masculine heroes in Hollywood right now are women. They kick hornet’s nests, vampire butts and anything else that gets in their way. You’ve come a long way baby!

But there’s a dark side to the fairer sex, usually manifesting itself during adolescence. Call it girl on girl meanness. While boys fight with their fists teen girls have a passion for mental cruelty. Humiliating a rival, creating awful rumors about the new girl, degrading the less attractive… these are very real problems and, with social media, are only getting worse. As the father of three little girls I am in complete denial.

But Secret isn’t. Again from Leo Burnett (with IMC2), the deodorant brand launched a provocative new campaign using girl power for good and not evil. Appropriately called “meanstinks,” the campaign uses social and mass media to convince young ladies to refrain from inter-gender hating and, moreover, to try a little kindness. A print ad shows graffiti on a high school girl’s locker. The Headline: Caitlin, your face looks like a pretty flower. The copy: Be nice behind someone’s back. Do it at In addition to being a good message, the ad itself is pretty sweet… maybe even awards show sweet. Facebook (often employed by teens to spread hate) is used for just the opposite reason: spreading goodwill among ‘friends.’

Even if “meanstinks” only turns around a few haters, it’s still a brilliant move – for womankind and for Secret. When fretful moms see what the brand is doing they cannot help but have a positive reaction, reinforcing the brand’s hard earned equity with them. If young women begin their relationship with Secret by virtue of this campaign that’s good for them… and the brand.

For more on this campaign, a post from one of its creators:

I’m a bit unclear on how Burnett and IMC2 collaborated. If anyone knows the particulars please inform the blog.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

Listening to sports radio the other day, one of the commentators noted how social media played an alarming role in the national bashing of Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler after he left the game in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers. As everyone knows, NFL players from around the league tweeted about his departure –in real time- creating a firestorm that still blazes. Among other things, he was called a “wussie” and warned not to shower at the same time as his fellow teammates. Ouch.

The radio analyst held Twitter and the Tweeters in contempt. Ordinarily, such nasty opinions would never have been voiced until well after the game and only if a journalist would have asked for them. That seems unlikely as the offending players were not involved in the game and, in fact, were out of the tournament.

I, myself, had tweeted that the Twitter component was at least as fascinating as the removal of Jay Cutler from the game. Indeed, this was the first time in history real athletes offered real opinions in real time on real events. Really!

Whether Twitter should be held in contempt is debatable but the unprecedented circumstances do point out a contemptible side of social media, one that is only now coming to the fore. Twitter eliminates ‘time’ from the equation. Social media removes the common sense practice of waiting before one speaks. We see the results everyday in the comments portion below the millions of stories we read online, if not in the stories themselves.

Communications used to involve strategy. Not anymore. While I salute the disintegration of public relations and all its spin, I lament the proliferation of gossip, vitriol and just plain stupidity.

All three were on display during the coronation and hasty decimation of the Internet sensation, Ted “Golden Voice” Williams. A viral video and a ba-zillion Twitter supporters (I being one of them) made the hobo a media sensation, landing him voiceover gigs on national television and more. Days later he was arrested in a hotel room fight with a family member, owned up to lying about his sobriety, entered rehab and disappeared, presumably back into the streets where he was found. To say that social media had nothing to do with this would be short sighted…and dangerous.

Yes, You Tube and Twitter can make people famous but it can and does do the opposite as well. Reputations can be unfairly tarnished. Lives ruined. Jay Cutler and Ted Williams are the two latest big examples; they did not deserve the attention that they got and would not have gotten it without social media. And, more frightening really, what of all the average people made less average whether they like it or not? As I write, anonymous bullies are terrorizing colleagues, classmates and family members via social media and there is nothing anyone can do about it other than get used to it.

I’m a blogger. I get my news from other bloggers. I use countless social media platforms to communicate. Up until very recently I helped create them for clients. I adore Twitter and Facebook. This truly is the new frontier, for marketers, for all of us. But there are rattlesnakes out there… and worse. Be mindful.


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