internet, social networking

The Value of Facebook: Knowledge and Power in the Age of Online Accountability

Chris_dewolfe_rupert_murdoch_john_bFrom left to right: Chris DeWolfe, Rupert Murdoch, John Battelle (Credit: Rafe Needleman/CNET Networks)

it turns out I’m worth £160.  or to be more precise, what I (and people like me) click on when I’m logged on to Facebook, is worth £160.  a bit of number crunching…

  • Facebook wants to float on the stock-market.
  • Facebook (what with the overheads of servers, bandwidth and 300+ staff) can’t afford to.
  • so they need capital investment.
  • it was today announced that Microsoft have bought a $240m stake in Facebook
  • a stake (which I calculate = 1.6%) that values Facebook at $15bn (£7.3bn).
  • I am one of 47 million Facebook users.
  • I’m worth $15bn valuation / 47m users = $319.
  • or around £160 (based on $2 : £1 ratio)

I’ve made a big assumption: that most of the value of Facebook is locked into it’s user-base, and – more crucially – what it represents.  which seems to be a fair assumption.  the high valuation of Facebook certainly isn’t down to the physical assets of the company.  but nor is it due to the simple aggregation of it’s 47million-strong global audience.

the value of Facebook is information.  not on who or where they are (although thats important).  rather its information on what it’s users click on.  more numbers I’m afraid:

  • if the av. Facebook user gets served 6 ads per day,
  • then each month Facebook serves 47m x 6 x 30 ads.
  • thats 8.5 billion data points every month.

it’s this data that’s so valuable to Facebook, and to Microsoft should they get their hands on it,  because sales operations will use that information to understand who clicks on what, when, and how often.  targeting gets better, which improves response rates and efficiency of ad-serving.  which given the numbers involved (and Google’s head start in this area) isn’t a bad return on a very minor investment in the company.

as a point of comparison, Maxim USA was recently sold for a rumoured $250m.  based on a readership of 16m (source: Dennis publising), that equates to $15.63 (or around £7.80 per user) – around twenty times less the equivelant for my Facebook valuation (£160).

the point of course of all this is that according to a Guardian article Friday October 19th, Facebook is expected to bring in just $150m of revenues, so – assuming all users are equal – I’m generating around £1.60 for the company a year.  the fact that in their valuation I’m worth more than one hundred times that, is testimony to the value of data, and the accountability to advertisers that it affords.


Seeing the Good for the Trees

Innocent has come a long way since I first encountered it on sticker posted over an underground LEP back someime around 2002, and not all of the brand’s journey has been smooth.  despite endearing initiatives such as the granny-knit bobble hats for charity (which I blogged about here back in November), there have been wobbles – the tie up with McDonald’s being perhaps the most notable (great debate from back in May here).

Innocent is a brand which – ironically – is most open to John Grant’s second principle of green branding, which I blogged about here.  Grant’s principle states that in marketing a brand you have to "be certain that your business and the green marketing itself will live up to  the standards which you set for yourself".  the reason that Innocent attracted so much criticism was that the McDonald’s move was in direct conflict with the brand engram the company has so carefully built.

Innocent more than most brands has to be whiter than white, so I’m always more than a little interested when I encounter a new green-orientated initiative from the brand.  I noticed one such initiative – ‘Buy One Get One Tree’ – on my kitchen bench last week.  a fellow Burgoyner had purchased a big carton of Innocent.  an act which had entitled him to plant a tree.


it’s a great initiative.  everything from the pun (BOGOT) to the virtual forest online which allows to to plant a tree on someone’s behalf.  and they’re clearly conscious of their transparency issues; the website contains a plethora of background information on how it works to who it benefits via which credible organisations they’re tied up with to make it happen.

it’s a great example of what Jim Taylor (he of the Space Race book) calls instore-out planning (as opposed to outstore-in).

the principle suggests that rather than creating advertising designed to drive people to a generic product on shelf, by reversing the model and using unique, differentiated, and changing products on shelf as the starting point for communications, you not only get more interesting end-point advertising (for example an ad that in this case says "thanks for helping us plant 100,000 trees") but arguably links much more strongly back to the product…  it shouldn’t have missed anyone’s attention that you can only plant a tree on the Innocent website once per purchase, via a unique code that’s written on the carton.

this is an initiative which has sales-generation and increased frequency of purchase at its heart.  but there’s nothing wrong with that.  they’re a commercial organisation in a capitalist economy, and if increased frequency of sales allow them to get 100,000 trees planted sooner rather than later, then all the better for it.

advertising, branding, engaging, planning

The Information R/evolution and it’s consequences for Advertising and Brand Communications

this wonderful piece of content, entitled Information R/evolution, is by Michael Wesch of the Kansas State University.  it explores the basic tenants of information and how they have fundamentally changed as information has moved from paper to digital storage.

for more on this subject they point in the direction of Clay Shirky”s work, as well as David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.

the principles of how consumers aggregate relevant information to their own ends is especially true for the business of brand communications.  it has become a given that the double revolutions challenging advertisers and their agencies are (1) a digitally driven explosion of content and (2) technologically-driven consumer control over that content.

advertisers hoping to push through this double whammy of virtually infinite (and expanding) content and consumer control over it by force of sheer strength (and budgets) will learn to their cost that information and its storage – no matter what its source – no longer permits such behaviour.

the role of many brand communications in the early 21st Century is to package brand messages in such a way that they not only avoid being filtered out, but are actively invited and aggregated by consumers around themselves (and each other).

what the above video communicates so well is a poignant reminder that underpinning much of the current change in the business of brand comms is the simple transfer of information to a digital realm.  whether it’s an essay, blog, advert for a fizzy drink, CD single or TV episode; the fundamental rules of how they are delivered and consumed are being re-written.  some key questions then arise for those creating brand communications to ask themselves:

1. am I creating something people want to have or experience?
2. does it change or add benefit to their lives?
3. can it be easily found and consumed at any time?
4. does it articulate and reflect my brand?
5. could a competitor have made it?

advertising is information.  the nature of information is changing.  our advertising and brand communications must evolve in order to remain relevant and effective in a changing world.

internet, user-generating

Blessing the Boot and the Spreading of Ideas

One day to go. One game left to play. One victory required to retain
the Rugby World Cup. No one’s ever done it. Tomorrow England could
change that.

It’s not something anyone predicted. Talking to ITV
after the quarter final, Jason Robinson commented that only thirty
people believed they could do it. Those thirty people were the squad:
the same squad that didn’t score a try against South Africa when they
met earlier in the contest.

The fact that this same squad is now one victory away from history bears testimony to the power of self-belief…

the sentiment seems to be spreading. A glance at the papers shows the
extent to which this other side of sporting performance – mental
training and belief – has come to the fore.

A profile of
Wilkinson in the Guardian quotes Steve Black, his coach at Newcastle,
who describes how “he has managed to keep going despite all the
setbacks and injuries because he has never stopped believing in

But this belief is now spreading beyond mainstream
broadcast media, and that’s where it’s gaining real momentum. More than
a few viral links have arrived in Vizeum’s collective inbox over the
last few days, by far the most surreal of which was the Chipmunks
singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot which you can experience above.

that’s not strictly true, the most surreal was an invite to bless
Johnny’s boot. Virtually of course. As I write, his boots have been
blessed 208,384 times… you can bless it too, just click here.
The Chipmunks aside, what the bless the boot site demonstrates, is how
this increasingly emergent concept of the mental aspect of sport and
sporting performance can overcome a lack of flair, youth, and previous

It is – of course – testimony to the internet that ideas like blessing the boot can spread so quickly and to so many people…

to spread they have to be pertinent to the moment, engaging, and
something that you want to pass on. All three of those things are
orientated not around brands but around consumers, something that
brands could and should consider when creating communications.

course not all virals are positive. One soul within the Vizeum ranks –
who shall remain nameless – sent an email making reference to England’s
over-reliance on a kicking game. But that person is South African, so
is clearly getting more than just a little nervous about that
particular aspect of the English game…!

The England team’s
greatest strength is its mental fortitude; and it is this inner-power –
above everything else – that has carried them to where they now stand.

just checked again, that boot has now been blessed 216,125 times.
Either I’m a very slow at typing, or that idea is spreading. Fast.
Bring it on!

advertising, branding, engaging, planning

Why Great Ads Are Great, But Not Great Enough

a strange thing has started happenning.  I’ve started watching ads.  Sky+ no longer gets to do it’s thing…  it started a few weeks ago, with THAT gorilla ad.  we wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so we re-wound and watch it.  then we watched it again.  thats what seems to have started it all. then last Friday Ugly Bettty was interrupted by the spanking new effort from Fallon for Bravia…  if you haven’t seen it, watch it now…

Play-Doh is a pleasure to watch.  repeatedly.  and thats a heck of a lot more important that how it compares to it’s predecessors.  an argument was made to me yesterday that viewer expectations of the series are now so high that Bravia / Fallon can’t hope to meet them.  that’s unfair; I can’t imagine a level on which Play-Doh doesn’t engage and entertain the viewer.  this emerging trend of me watching ads continued more recently with eBay’s effort.

knowingly retro, clean and fresh, and containing a wonderfully insightful moment where one of the characters looses a bid, this marks a strong start for what is hopefully set to become a long-running platform for the brand…  eBay has a world to play with, ads created in isolation should only be the first and shallowest expression of that world…  this is begging to be transmedia-planned.

another new effort comes from the Post-Office.  the ants – thank God – have gone and been replaced by a sitcom assortment of characters.  again there’s knowingness in the derogatory reference to sub-standard carpets, and then Joan Collins crops up.  all very random but it works…  but it could be argued just making an ad is a very shallow window on this world and brand.  I would love to see what could be done with this concept extended into 5-8 min sitcom-style shorts online…  a Victoria Wood meets Gervais / Merchant approach could create some genuinely entertaining content (above and beyond which the ads could reference, again a nod to transmedia-ness)…

but the trend isn’t restricted to TV.  a lovely press ad for the Peugeot 407 caught my eye recently too…

Peugeot_dps_2the flowchart on the left is genuinely fun and invites you – by playing thru a decision-making tree – to think about what’s important when buying a car.  a simple idea that’s entertaining whilst remaining embedded in the product…  and there’s an intriguing url – – which depressingly is not a smarter deeper reflection of the ad but lots of pictures of cars, a product not a brand experience.

and I suppose that this is the nub of all this…  brands are ideas.  and ads are the multitudes of individual expressions of those ideas.  but to end there, with a great ad, is simply no longer enough.  media offers more, and brands deserve more.  the opportunity is not just to make great ads like the above, but to do the smart interesting stuff with and behind them that a 21st Century media landscape permits…

whether it’s communicating the mythology of making the ad a la Play-Doh, or creating and bringing a world to life like eBay (storybooks, documentaries anyone?); or potentially making entertaining content (Post-Office sitcom please), or something as simple as taking that Gorilla ad that sparked this bout of ad-watching, and changing the smallest thing to make the biggest difference…  the below played out just before 8pm on Saturday 13th October, a few minutes before England played France.  if you didn’t catch this watch the ad again – the gem crops up just at the end.  enjoy.

advertising, planning, regulating


Zipngeorge “the only consequence of the regulations will be a hit on the commercial incomes of channels targeting young people. the only consequence of that will be a decline in the quality of the content on those channels. which is in no one’s interest.”
Posted by chris stephenson on Sunday, 19 November 2006 at 23:18

More hours + less investment = lower quality.  Should have been an easy equation to forecast.  Not so for Ofcom, who last week published a report into the state of children’s TV.  Apparently it’s bleak.  Whilst the hours of dedicated kids TV have trebled over recent years (with the emergence of dedicated children’s channels), investment across the public service broadcasting channels, has – according to Ofcom – declined somewhere in the region of 20%.

Channels create programmes that people want to watch.  They can then charge advertisers to reach those audiences.  This funds programme making.  And round we go. It should be so easy, Childsplay even.  But no.  By pandering to the notion that advertising has the ability to magically make kids – or anyone for that matter – buy things (if only it were that easy!), and by therefore barring a significant proportion of advertisers from investing in the kids TV market, Ofcom has by its own actions significantly reduced the amount of investment commercial channels can obtain from advertisers.

Ofcom are ignoring the fundamental commerciality of the market.  Worse, they seem to be implying that they should be able to re-engineer the situation with further legislation:

Mr Thickett, who is overseeing the report, points out that "Ofcom has powers to make recommendations but our power is only to look at the market as a whole … we have no powers to prevent them [broadcasters] doing what they feel they need to do."

Broadcasters feel they need to reduce investment not despite, but because of Ofcom’s actions.  Broadcasters are reducing the investment in kids TV precisely because of the pressures of the commercial marketplace, pressures that have been exacerbated by the junk food ban.

Advertisers still target kids via media investment.  But the marketplace has forced advertisers to divert investment away from TV into other media channels – channels that have no PSB remit in delivering quality educational kids television.

Are kids getting thinner?  I doubt it!  Will the government – thru Ofcom – continue to pander to the needs of a nanny state and target advertising?  Very possibly.  Alcohol advertising ban anyone?