News Column

Facebook, GM Talk Ads

July 5, 2012
Facebook

General Motors stopped advertising on Facebook shortly before the social media company's I.P.O., causing damage to Facebook's reputation. Now, the two are talking again.

After a public falling-out in May, General Motors and Facebook may be ready to patch things up.

Senior executives from both companies, including Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer for Facebook, and Daniel F. Akerson, the chief executive at General Motors, have been in discussions to mend their relationship, according to a person with knowledge of the talks.

The person said Tuesday that Carolyn Everson, the head of global sales at Facebook, and Joel Ewanick, the chief marketing officer for General Motors, had met in Cannes at the end of June.

The conversation, held during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, an annual advertising conference, was the first face-to-face meeting by representatives of the two companies since G.M. decided to end its paid advertising on Facebook, the person said. That decision embarrassed Facebook just days before it went public, souring its relationship with the carmaker.

A G.M. spokesman, Greg Martin, confirmed that the automaker had reopened discussions with Facebook about resuming paid advertisements. "The discussions are back on," Mr. Martin said, without providing additional details.

G.M. is said to be asking for more information from Facebook about visitors to its pages and its ads. There is no expectation that a deal will be reached soon, said a G.M. executive familiar with the discussions. Facebook declined to comment.

News of the renewed discussions was first reported Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal.

The decision by G.M. to suspend paid advertising did not involve a large amount of revenue, but it became a public relations headache for Facebook, which has been trying to prove that advertising on the site is effective.

It created uncertainty among other advertisers who were trying to determine how best to use the site: continue to pay for advertising on Facebook or invest more in creating content like videos for branded pages.

General Motors is one of the world's largest advertisers, spending about $4.47 billion in 2011.

It had advertised on Facebook since 2008 and was spending about $10 million for paid ads and an additional $30 million on managing and creating content for their brand pages.

Since its withdrawal, Facebook has been on a mission to prove to marketers that its ads are effective. It released a report in mid- June with the research firm comScore that highlighted the successes of brands like Starbucks and Target on the site.

The effort at reconciliation comes as G.M.'s Chevy brand uses the Facebook name in print ads for a line of pickup trucks. In the ad, a man is sitting on the back of a pickup truck with his dog, with an accompanying headline that reads "Not every friend is on Facebook."

A Facebook representative declined to comment on the ad. Jeff Goodby, of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, the agency that worked on the campaign, said the ads, which have run for the past few months, were not meant to be a dig at Facebook.

"This was a celebration of dogs," Mr. Goodby said. "Until Facebook can be as free and warm as a dog, they will be open to this kind of thing"

Mr. Goodby highlighted an ad the agency created for the 2011 Super Bowl that showed the Facebook news feed feature in the Chevy Cruze. "We've done several pieces of advertising that have mentioned Facebook," Mr. Goodby said. "Always positively."



Source: (C) 2012 International Herald Tribune.


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