Breaking News: Facebook Ads Don’t Work!

Did you see the front page of the Wall Street Journal this morning? General Motors is pulling all paid advertising from Facebook, “…after deciding that paid ads on the site have little impact on consumers’ car purchases.”

Hello? Print Industry…are you listening?

You should hop on that white horse tied up outside your office and ride all over town screaming the news: social media is NOT a substitute for print and direct mail!

How many times have you heard people throw up “We are moving a lot of our print to the Internet” as a buying objection?

Yeah? How’s THAT working for you, Sparky?

Gang, this isn’t the general store pulling its advertising. This is GENERAL MOTORS! Faster than you can say, “Mark Zuckerberg,” the wind is out of the sails that drove the argument that social media is the way to go!

Not so much!

This is a HUGE body blow to not just Facebook, but to LinkedIn and Twitter, too. Jump on this, ye purveyors of print. Get the message out there ASAP. Cite the headline. Make some phone calls. Shoot off a bunch of emails.

I’d tell you to post it on Facebook, too, but who’d see it?

Bill Farquharson can be reached at or 781-934-7036

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • seawardco

    Bill- Read the rest of the article… Only the paid ads aren’t working. GM is still spending many millions of dollars producing content for their free Facebook pages that feature their products and brand building programs. It seems that Facebook users are ignoring the paid ads and are going where they see value for their time spent on-line.

    The lesson here is that content is king.

  • Scott Dubois

    This is classic print industry overreaction to one thing, in order to pump the channel. We know how and why print works.

    p.s. We also know social works.

  • Jon Mowan

    When are marketers going to figure out that ‘social’ is not meant to be a marketing channel, hence the name ‘social’ and get back to outbound marketing that works!
    Quit wasting budget dollars and go back to proven methods that don’t require new theories to get someone to try it out for a test drive!

  • denajill

    General Motors is still using social media–they are just halting Facebook advertising. This is a perfect example of how digital and social marketing tools are adjustable. With proper analytics, you can see what works and doesn’t work and move promotional dollars to another channel. So GM decided that Facebook advertising didn’t work for them, Kudos to them for watching, measuring and moving to what does work for them. Social media and the use of Facebook ads are simply channels. Social media marketing is very effective. Traditional print campaigns are still needed and imperative to marketing campaigns. The key is integration. Facebook advertising can be an enhancement to the marketing efforts or can lead your advertising efforts–depending on your audience. Last thoughts: Plan, integrate, execute. measure, adjust.

  • Bill Farquharson

    Great follow up article that Ford is having success with their paid FB content. The key, as pointed out below, is content!

  • Robert Hazelrigg

    It doesn’t surprise that something GM is doing isn’t working. What have they ever done that does works? That is besides, bilking our government for more bailout money. Maybe if they manufactured a better product they’d have more success… Speaking of which: Several of my clients have found success with FB ads, reaching ten of thousands local customers and YES generating sales. Maybe you should have GM give me a call.

  • Itsoktoprint

    Wheee!…. Having fun with this one aren’t we? It has the same feel as a meeting two years ago in Chicago (Convergence) when the two keynote speakers went toe to toe over virtually the same thing.

    We can only judge what we can measure and the measurement is that print remains the ROI king, as an aggregate. And it gets even sweeter when we use other channels correctly. To throw out social media as a viable channel would be as foolish as throwing out print. You would miss exposure to entire generation of potential customers and clients and therefore must respected. It cannot be the trite trash so often seen on sites like facebook. It has have the same things that all advertising has: relevance, honesty, value, and timeliness.

    I disagree that linkedin is a bad channel and the stock market agrees, though I feel its a bit stretched. It’s made for business and I think more receptive. Facebook has had a rocky IPO beginning and time will tell what happens. I certainly don’t point clients towards it as a way to add value as an exclusive medium, and in fact feel it can be a negative on your brand if you aren’t careful. And be prepared to give away the house to get a great response as social seems to need that to really work.

    Have fun with it guys and gals. This debate will continue for many years.

  • slavaapel

    I disagree with the assumption that Facebook display ads don’t work, as I have done many successful campaigns on FB. Just like he difference between VDP and static printing, more targeted your ads are, better the response.
    Also take a look at the timing of that announcement… a few days before Facebook becomes one of 50 biggest companies on a planet with their initial public offering, another company is doing something that would influence the stock value. Something doesn`t look right about that timing.
    How about a similar announcement from Proctor and Gamble saying that they’re increasing Facebook advertising? Just Google for “ P&G To Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering It’s Free To Advertise On Facebook“
    In summary… GM needs to take lessons from VDP industry and get better at targeting.

    Slava Apel