“I’m Shocked, shocked to learn there were client-focused Facebook employee teams working for Trump and the Republicans.” “Shocked to learn they were using science for targeting political ads.”
Come on Leslie Stahl, you weren’t born yesterday. Don’t think most big brands have client-specific teams? Don’t think Verizon and Tide® have dedicated support? Never received a catalog or a direct mail piece? Never heard of message targeting? You were an honors student in college. You couldn’t have forgotten the Skinner box?
Such was the tone and drivel we heard on 60 Minutes, October 8th, 2017 when Ms. Stahl was interviewing Brad Parscale, Trump’s chief “scientist-er” and secret weapon for winning elections. One could almost imagine Ms. Stahl dressed in a fine antebellum dress, sitting on the veranda fanning herself and saying, “You mean Facebook sent messages just to me, little ol’ me? Oh, I do declare Mr. Parscale.”
The sideshow on 60 Minutes was a thinly veiled effort by Facebook, and the S&M Exec power duo to get out ahead of the story that will certainly take its toll on Facebook’s value. Zuckerberg has already feathered out his position by a $B or so. He knows better than anyone that the gravy train is starting to hit some switchback turns. Revenue and earnings will soon take a real hit. For the time being, the strategy will be to keep the focus on politics….not advertising in general. But, that’s not the point of this story.
The point of this story is about a direct response marketer’s dream come true: the experimental test lab with a billion addressable potential respondents (along with their demographics and a mother load of click-stream data). It is the gigundo Skinner Box. But now, we each get our own personalized box. It’s customized and somehow feels better to me than a garden-variety ad, and it’s delivered right next to our friends on Facebook. In the back of minds there is a soft note of awareness.... Oh look, there’s some music I like; ”how bout that…pretty cool”
This is hyper precise messaging. And we and they don’t even realize what happened. It crept up on us. Its got perfection and grace. It leaves a smile on the face. Most will argue that this sort of messaging doesn’t influence them, “I never look at that stuff,” I’ve heard them say.
What used to take years of experimentation and rooms full of data analysts, graphic designers, statisticians, print layout experts, managers and accountants is now done in seconds. It is natively digital hyper targeting coupled with good statistics and learning systems. The medium is the message with an audience on one. But now, it is done with millions of audiences of one, all at once. This is the brave new world. And to think this was just a dream some of us had back in science school.