Unilever's Ben & Jerry's brand

Unilever's Ben & Jerry's brand

Not long ago, it was quite common for marketers to question whether social media advertising “works”.

It’s actually a bit of a strange question, if you think about it.

Social media, like all media, is just a place where people rest their eyeballs. (Actually social media is more than that. But I digress).

And if enough eyeballs go there, then so will advertisers. That’s the way it’s always been, for every medium.

The first cinema in the United States – Vitascope Hall, in New Orleans – opened in 1896. Cinema ads were being produced less than a year later.

The first commercially licensed radio station in America went on air in 1920. In 1922, the first radio advertising was broadcast.

Of course, people questioned those media at first. “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value” was one early critique of radio.

Similarly, when Twitter launched in 2006, commentators speculated it would never be possible to monetise it. This year, it’s looking at an estimated $2 billion in ad revenue. (And the revenue estimate is $13 billion for another prominent social media site called ‘The Facebook’).

Perhaps it’s appropriate that it fell to Unilever – that most blue-chip of all advertisers – to give social media advertising the official seal of approval. It happened at an advertising measurement conference in Miami Beach a couple of weeks ago (Miami Beach! Who says bean counters don’t party?!)

Shawn O’Neal, VP-global people data and marketing analytics for the FMCG giant, didn’t reveal specific results (because they’re proprietary) but did announce that his findings on Unilever’s extensive social media activities were enough to convince the company’s senior leadership to “give us tens of millions more to continue what we’re doing.”

We can probably expect more detail when O’Neal speaks at Ad Age’s Data Conference in New York tomorrow (October 8th).

But in summary, it works.

(Though it could be working a lot better, since most of the actual creative in Social today is very average. But that’s a story for another time).

So what do you think? We are all in agreement that Social Media advertising works now, aren’t we?

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