Tag Archives: Bill Harvey

The Spirit of Friendship

Volume 4, Issue 19

And the Future of Facebook

It started as a way for male college students to see the faces of the coeds so as to choose which ones to ask out on dates. Today it is as big as television in the lives of many people.

In my newsletter of things to come, when I was making my wild-eyed media predictions a long time ago (which all came true in one way or another), I thought Facebook would come through webcams first, and of course I never used the term Facebook. I saw it as “each person having their own television station” and cross-device promotion expert Richard Fusco despite his fondness for radio saw it that way too. That was the closest my mind could get to a picture of the interactivity and democratization I knew would be coming. Of course, my mind was constrained by the things I knew best, such as television.

When Facebook came out as a stock for public investment, the results were disappointing because despite enormous audience usage there was no credible revenue model. The early Internet pioneers were mostly anti-advertising and/or had ridiculously high estimates of what advertisers would pay. Google was determined never to allow advertising. They were all smart enough to pivot and learn the advertising ground rules fast once the handwriting was on the wall.

Back in the post-IPO early days I suggested to a friend highly placed at Facebook that Facebook advertising should not be advertising at all, but branded content. Brands would insert content that fit within Facebook’s mood, not selling their product but sponsoring entertainment and/or informative/useful content that users would like and be grateful for, translating to sales and loyalty for the brand. I showed my friend the 28 studies I had done proving this point. He said it was interesting but they already had a full plate of ideas they were testing.

Stan Silverman, one of the most effective direct marketers today, pointed out around the same time that regular ads would not be as effective in Facebook, since when people used Facebook it was not for shopping or thinking about products, but instead feeling good in the warmth of communicating with friends or just seeing what they were up to lately. Nonetheless “regular ads” is what transpired in Facebook.

Something else is happening to Facebook today. The way content is organized is changing. Facebook must by now realize that users are not at all happy about this. Posts from friends they were particularly following no longer appeared on their main page (Home or News Feed) but had to be found on a new page that had to be stumbled upon. This content feed (called Pages Feed) appears to be where the algorithms put content that has some soft-sell advertising-like purpose but is not paying Facebook anything for ads. One can imagine the meeting at Facebook in which it was decided to dis-incentivize these “freeloaders” and force them into paying for ads by shoving them in the back of the Facebook so to speak.

At that meeting someone might have warned that users don’t like changes unless they themselves have asked for them. Jonathan Steuer, whose renaissance mind springs instantly to the bottom line, reminds us that Microsoft has made much-despised changes at the pleasure of its software developers without considering the inconvenience to users of such changes. Jonathan has been loyal to Apple since the beginning and across all devices the Apple interface has been steady as a rock.

It remains to be seen whether Facebook will make a success of its current ad policy or evolve a new one. If it can show ROI of course the game is won Business-to-Business (BTB), although fans might not like the ad-driven changes. A true win/win would be to maintain the mood and spirit of the original Facebook, return quickly to the beloved format before too much time passes, show the world that this is a company whose leaders can admit mistakes because they are real people like the rest of us. That’s the spirit of the place. It’s a great spirit — the spirit of friendship. It could be a wonderful — even the premier — environment for brands bonding with consumers.

And it could lead the way into a future where advertising is more a matter of friendly brand content than the bombarding remnants of operant conditioning theory. I hope this prediction comes true.

Best to all,


Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: "In Terms of ROI." It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com.

You Are The Universe: Imagine That is now available. Read an excerpt and watch my videos where I talk about the book.

The Bill Harvey newsletter is back

Many of you will remember and may have subscribed to the newsletter I wrote from 1979 to 2000, which predicted many of today’s media/technology trends:  reality TV, audiences creating media, the proliferation of interactive screens, addressable commercials (1979), passive portable peoplemeters (1979), the privacy principles of full disclosure/consumer choice/anonymity before they became the ANA/AAAA/ARF CASIE Principles, forecast (1980) the 30-point share drop (90 to 60) for the big 3 networks 1980-1990, and coined the terms clickstream and clickthrough.

For the first few years the newsletter came out twice a month and was called MEDIA SCIENCE NEWSLETTER. J. Walter Thompson was the first subscriber. During that period we made some of our riskiest projections, including penetration levels for basic and pay cable and every other form of the New Electronic Media. Then Viacom chief Jewels Haimovitz reminded me years later how accurate those projections turned out to be. The press referred to me as a media futurist. The late and beloved reporter Ben Bodec tracked my progress in Media Decisions.

In those early days we were still very turned on by the idea of media optimization. After successfully conducting many optimizations across all media at Interpublic however we gradually became more and more interested in optimizing more than just the eyeball exposure of media. How about optimizing the whole marketing budget? Against Sales, not eyeballs?

I had seen the early marketing mix modeling work Herb Krugman did at Interpublic, and saw that if you could automate that, run it backwards, and quantify the objective function – ROI or Consumer Lifetime Value or stock price or whatever – you could find a way to collect or estimate all the data you needed, and optimize the whole shebang.

At that point in time the name of the newsletter changed to THE MARKETING PULSE. We brought to light important studies by Motivac in France, suggesting that passive peoplemeters were ready for rollout – shortly before Percy rolled them out in the US ahead of Arbitron. We revealed important findings that the press had ignored, such as Leslie Woods and Walter Reichel’s measurement of the effect of Recency on actual sales. We became more interested in sales measurement, consulted for ScanAmerica and analyzed its sales lift findings relative to TV in the pages of the newsletter. We reported that IRI had found incremental TV to be ROI-positive twice as often as incremental promotion – 40% of the time vs. 20%.

Some of you may recall that 30 years ago I founded a nonprofit organization, the Human Effectiveness Institute, with the aim of improving decision making by optimization of thought. THEI put out a book which was rewritten this century as FREEING CREATIVE EFFECTIVENESS.

The book became used as a course text at 35 universities including NYU and UCLA. On behalf of THEI I’ve provided workshops around the book to futurist groups within government and spoken about it at the World Future Society annual conference, on television and radio, on a panel with Bucky Fuller, and at West Point.

The idea of the “book” is that it breaks form with bookness, and by shattering expectations creates a mood conducive to mental optimization. The content is all about mental optimization and the resulting better decisions – decisions that work better in the real world. THEI is the publisher of this blog and therefore the topics of my new newsletter/blog will range far beyond media to include the important questions of the day, all of which rest on a foundational need for better decision making:

  • How does the US regain its competitive lead on the world market?
  • If times ahead will reduce actual spending power for most people, what less obvious changes will result?
  • Is it possible to put back even more meaning into our lives?
  • How do brands actually bond best with consumers?

The newsletter/blog will however stop referring to people as consumers, because that lens is counterproductive to the relationship brands wish to have with people.

Of course the topics you’d expect will always be covered:

  • How will cultural changes change the media and vice versa?
  • Different media create different measurable brain states
  • Programming gaps to be filled
  • Forecasts of changes in the media landscape
  • Nontraditional, experiential, and social marketing – best and worst practices – and what’s to come
  • At the cutting edge of marketing/media research
  • The optimization of effectiveness
  • Recommendations

I hope you’ll tell our mutual friends that the BH newsletter is back, or anyone you think might be interested in reading my “crazy” ideas again.  Thanks!

All the best, Bill