"I think when the Internet came out, everyone thought it was going to change marketing…and really what happened is a lot of the things that were going on before moved online. So you used to do a TV ad, you did a banner ad—but it was still that one-way communication of one to many. Our ads are really two-way and really social. That's, I think, the real difference."
-- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, speaking to BusinessWeek.
It's early to claim Facebook has revolutionized advertising, as BusinessWeek paraphrases Sandberg as saying. It echoes the boast Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made when the company first introduced its ad platform. Still, Facebook has taken a giant step toward making advertising more participatory. I took a look at the success (and misses) brands are having with their Facebook pages. What quickly became clear is Facebook really can drive engagement. One example not in the article: Walgreen's put up an official Facebook page in September. It got 25,000 fans. Then it ran a weeklong Facebook ad campaign and saw its fan base grow to 200,000. The drug store chain now has a surprising 347,000 fans on Facebook. The challenge, an executive told me, is what to do now with this fan base, but the experience, he said, "opened a lot of eyes in the company." A quite different brand, Chick-fil-A, had 25,000 people register for a chicken sandwich sample in five days.
The key to these examples: there is measurable engagement. The only way brands are going to shift budgets out of the tried and true to two-way advertising is if it can proven to work. The idea that the eyeballs are there and therefore the money will shift isn't going to cut it.
The truth is the two-way revolution will move slowly. It will move, though. Ad providers that can show measurable engagement with customers -- not just clicks or impressions -- will win out in a world of two-way communication. That's why I pay a lot of attention to what people like Digg, Federated Media and Video Egg are doing.