Social Media Bigwigs Reveal Advertising Tactics

Back in the day, advertising was supposed to be kinda sneaky — yeah, we knew companies were directing ads at us consumers in an effort to get us to buy stuff, but no one talked about it. Now, social media heavies like Twitter, Zynga (makers of Farmville, Mafia Wars and other time leechers) and LinkedIn are being totally open about their efforts. has a video snippet up from a panel of COOs and CEOS from the aforementioned companies, discussing their innovations in advertising and basically, how they’re getting suckers like us to pay in.

Zynga’s founder and CEO, Mark Pincus, weighs in on the future of ads in social media with the example of a recent campaign for General Mills new organic Cascadian farms blueberries. It’s easy, really — just introduce the berries in virtual form on Farmville, and voila! Millions of game players plant the digital crops and then go on to make pies they can’t actually eat or let those imaginary berries sit too long in the online fridge until they’re forced to throw them out.

It just seems interesting that companies are being so open about their tactics. We should be overjoyed at the transparency, but it feels a little condescending to be informed of how we, as consumers, are being targeted.

But then again, people love their Tweeting, winking, and virtual food. Carry on!

Watch below:

Twitter, LinkedIn, Zynga on future of ads [Fortune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. KrispyKrink says:

    Well now, good thing I can’t be programed. I’ve never paid attention, or responded to advertising in my entire life.

    • femiwhat says:

      Neither has anyone else, which is why they continue to pay people to run advertising campaigns for them.

    • Bativac says:

      Me neither but this Coca-Cola sure is refreshing. And these Chee-Tos are delicious!

    • tomok97 says:

      Highly unlikely. Even if you deliberately avoid a product that’s been advertised…well, that’s still a response. Advertising isn’t inherently evil. Ever seen a movie? How’d you hear about it? Every buy a concert ticket? How’d you hear about that? Ever voted for a candidate? Eat at a fast food restaurant? Shop at a grocery store? Visit a website? How did you hear about any of that? And even if you say “a friend told you”…well, how do you think you’re friend heard about it? Even if you really have never been influenced by advertising (which is virtually impossible unless you’re a cloistered monk who just happens to have WiFi) the best you could have done is “launder” your advertising influence through your friends and family.

      • Fenrisulfr says:

        -I do not see movies at theatres
        -I buy concert tickets when the band website says they are coming to town
        -I vote Libertarian
        -I do not eat fast food
        -I shop at the farmer’s market and the one store in town that is not ‘Wal-Mart’
        -ever heard of It’s all the rage :)

        You presuppose people do not seek their own information, and thus your poorly-articulated argument with a silly number of rhetorical questions is bunk.

        • foxyshadis says:

          Your inability to recognize your own responses to advertising means you’re more susceptible than you think. Unless you’re simply Autistic, you will respond to advertising at some point, and only by recognizing the emotions involved can you ever hope to fight manipulation. Simply being a cheapskate doesn’t mean you’ve never been affected.

          How did you hear about the farmer’s market? Driving randomly around town until you spotted one? Or was it word of mouth and/or visual advertisement? What about the bands you find online? How about your current internet provider, or this web site? Advertisement is not necessarily manipulation, at the most basic it’s spreading awareness.

          • Fenrisulfr says:

            It is mostly because I am disgusted with advertising, as with much of the modern world, that I avoid things targeted toward my age group, and instead rely upon word of mouth. This is done because 99.999% of things advertised at my demographic are either frivolous, bring poor health, or will result in death or at least four years of headaches. Also, if they have the money to advertise, that is money they must recoup from profit, thus the price I would pay would be higher than normal, suggesting that the advertised product is not a good value. Finally, I find most advertisement to be an insult to my values and to my intelligence, and go out of my way to avoid it, including using Adblock, and not watching the television.

            You may also be under the assumption that I do not recognise the emotions involved in advertising. Two words should change your mind about that – ‘Edward Bernays’.

            farmer’s market – chamber of commerce
            bands – I do not know how I came across them, usually if they are going to play at the venue nearby, I will give them a listen, so technically that may count as advertisement
            ISP – only DSL in town
            Consumerist – a link via if memory serves

    • mackjaz says:

      Sarcasm detector, anyone?

      The only thing we can do is educate ourselves and try to counteract the evil, evil practice that is manipulative marketing. And above all, do not participate in marketing evaluations or other insidious attempts to worm into our collective heads.

  2. KashmirKong says:

    I think the reason they’re so open about it is because people are too ignorant to care, especially the teens/young adults.

    I mean look at Facebook itself. Loads of people hate it because of privacy concerns but they keep mindlessly using it.

    • barcodetattoo says:

      That’s part of it, true. But look at the launch dates for things like Apple ipads etc. People line up around the block for something they don’t actually need. It’s a conditioned need, set in by the fad of having to own the newest and prettiest gadget, whether you have to have it or not. Same with the touch-screen phones and the “apps” (buzzwords also help to sell things) that go with them. We are not always ignorant of things; it’s more about what we think we need vs. what we really need.

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      I’d love to know why not caring about advertising is ignorant. The horrors!

      • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

        Because it’s deliberately allowing yourself to be manipulated, which I would think most people would consider to be pretty dumb. If you care, you’re less likely to be casually manipulated by the advertising.

        Or, you’ll use Adblock/Flashblock/NoScript and never see an ad online again.

        • Fenrisulfr says:

          Adblock ftw

        • crazydavythe1st says:

          I do use Adblock for most websites, but I don’t see how say – the Betty White Snickers commercial or an Aflac commercial is manipulating me. Yes, I would say that advertising sways my preferences, perhaps even subconciously, but in many cases I am paying for a service. The extent to which advertising manipulates me is probably choosing a restaurant to eat at, and choosing one restaurant over another usually doesn’t make much of a difference financially for a single person.

    • Griking says:

      Who’s to say that they’re “mindlessly” using it.

      I’d imagine that it would have to be pretty hard to not have read about the privacy concerns of Facebook by now. Perhaps people don’t seem to mind as much as you do and think that it’s worth the trade off for the enjoyment they get from it in return.

  3. Clyde Barrow says:

    “Zynga’s founder and CEO, Mark Pincus, weighs in on the future of ads in social media with the example of a recent campaign for General Mills new organic Cascadian farms blueberries. It’s easy, really — just introduce the berries in virtual form on Farmville, and voila! Millions of game players plant the digital crops and then go on to make pies they can’t actually eat or let those imaginary berries sit too long in the online fridge until they’re forced to throw them out.”

    So where is the quantative proof that placing virtual berries into a virtual website will work? Answer: There isn’t any because it is nearly impossible to measure. As with most advertising it is qualitative and based upon subjective reasoning. Just stating that something will work does not mean it will work. That is like saying placing an ad for General Mills cereal on a plastic Tyco box car for a DIY yourself train ethusiast is going to create sales, such as what was done 30 years ago, but where’s the proof?

    • nybiker says:

      And that subjective reasoning is why we have naming rights deals (a/k/a conducting the world’s oldest business) and products & services that are the official widgets of some baseball or soccer team. Do all the people that attend games at the baseball field in Flushing, Queens eventually decide to become customers of the bank that shelled out the money for the naming rights? And if so, do they do it because of the stadium’s name?
      Remember, baseball isn’t NASCAR, where people will switch allegiances from one laundry detergent to another if that brand is no longer sponsoring their favorite driver.

  4. barcodetattoo says:

    I for one applaud the honesty of these companies. For far too long we have been talked down to like children when it comes to advertising. At least they’re giving us credit as consumers. For once a company acknowledges that we as consumers have a brain, sparing us the same old commercial scripts (“so, call now” and admitting that yes we are after your business. Zynga said it best: Present it in virtual form and make us want to go after it. It’s advertising in the digital age, and more companies should follow suit.

  5. XTREME TOW says:

    Birds of a Feather flock together?

    Marck Pincus talks candidly about Zynga.
    I can’t help but wonder what Zuckerbergs’ philosophy is.

  6. oldtaku says:

    I think they finally realized that it doesn’t matter – they used to worry that if you revealed your nefarious plans to people that the suckers would go ‘Oh my gosh I had better just stop using that then.’ The real revelation is that it knowledge does not translate to intention, and even intention doesn’t translate to action – people don’t have that much willpower or concern. So you might as well just announce exactly what you’re doing. You can have your tasty moist delicious cake and eat it too.

    Those comments up the page from people who think commercials have no effect on them are a good example why this works. Even if people care, they’re not self-aware to realize what’s going on internally. Our ‘conscious self’ seems to be a storyteller justifying the actions of your other brain systems, like the one that really wants some delicious KFC. And people who think they can’t be affected at all are the easiest to fool – this is why scientists are hilariously bad at detecting sleight of hand and fraud.

    So you might as well just be honest. Go figure.

  7. colonelgirdle says:

    Many of my friends & family of all ages have fallen prey to these social websites. Out of curiousity, for about 2 weeks I joined Facebook & was immediately overwhelmed with all sorts of invitations to buy imaginary bunches of flowers, feed oats to make-believe horses, read the most tedious trivia about my “friends” days, etc. Yuck ! With a great sense of liberation, I canceled my account.

    These sites remind me of an episode of the original Star Trek, wherein the Enterprise visits a planet orbiting a star that is about to go nova & destroy the planet. All the inhabitants have used a device to escape into times in the past, so as to escape their horrible fate. Our culture uses these escapes to dodge how crummy & inhumane our society has become.

  8. ChuckECheese says:

    People who pay for goods and services usually get annoyed if they feel they are being taken for a ride. In other words, people who pay to play online games get annoyed if they feel they are being used as a semi-captive audience for advertisers. The ploy here is an old one, called “normalizing:” You make what you’re doing seem totally normal, and somehow, it takes away the obnoxiousness of it. Stoners do this all the time by making pot jokes to everybody and their grandma.

    The thing that really annoys me here is that Mark Pincus is 44 and he has Bieber hair.

    • Damocles57 says:

      Maybe he subliminally conditioned Justin to adopt the Pincus Hair style through some social media tactic? Afterall, the Pincus model has been around a lot longer than the Beiber model.

    • Brent says:

      I’m wondering why that annoys you. Are people inauthentic if they wear T-shirts and floppy hair after age 40? I notice he doesn’t dye his graying hair, which somehow would be considered more age appropriate in our society than leaving it gray but growing it longer.

  9. mattlohkamp says:

    That’s the thing – we’re at a point where marketers don’t really need to be sneaky. I’d be willing to bet that blatant marketing done in a novel way (tasteful, clever, humorous) is more appreciated and results in higher conversion to sales – W+K’s Old Spice commercials are the easy current example. Consumers seem to think highly of companies that come right out and say, “we are developing a product that we’d like to give you in exchange for your money.”

  10. vastrightwing says:

    I have no problem with honesty, even if an exec says, sure, we plant commercials during cartoon time and make children want to buy our junk and make their parents pay for it. It works. Where I have problems is when companies lie on advertising and again on their labels and lie again in their PR. That, I have problems with. Information is information whether it’s in the form of an ad/article or what ever. Deception is bad in almost any context.

  11. Rocket says:

    This post brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

  12. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    Three things you need to know about advertising online:

    1) AdBlock Plus
    2) Flashblock
    3) NoScript

    Judicious use of these three extensions for Firefox means your exposure to online advertising will decline about 95%. The only ads I see online these days are Google’s text ads, and those are pretty easily ignored.

    To everyone who’s about to flame me for ‘stealing content’, I say “Tough shit.” If your product/service/whatever is good enough, you won’t need to advertise it.

  13. Tracer Bullet says:

    I think Advertising/Marketing peeps are just looking for an excuse to get paid for sitting on Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media sites all day. While I think it is important for companies to have a “social media presence” and put their company info on these social media sites, to actually use them for the purpose of selling products is ridiculous. I have been using social media sites for 9-10 years now and I have not once purchased a product because of their advertisement or marketing on these sites. It also sickens me how they try and force the advertising down your throat, like zynga poker trying to get you to register with all of your real information so they can give your email address and other information to their partners.

  14. grapedog says:

    I love when movies use obvious advertising, and make a point of making it obvious. If nothing else, advertising like that makes me chuckle.

    I don’t watch TV, and I don’t run ad’s on my browser, so I don’t get to see much advertising overall. I think the most advertising i get is watching the previews before movies, and I actually enjoy those. And during sports…but that’s why I love my DVR…I can just fast forward through them.

  15. xredgambit says:

    Someone link to the Penny Arcade comic on batteries and Alan Wake.