Bradley Horowitz smacks Facebook, makes little sense

Google+ head honcho Bradley Horowitz, on the different approach that his product has to ads compared to Facebook:

“Jamming ads and agendas into user streams is pissing off users and frustrating brands too,” he said. “That’s not the way the world works.”

Rather, in the real world, there has to be intent. When a person’s hungry, he or she goes into a restaurant. Seeing an ad for a sandwich when they’re not hungry or looking for it isn’t very effective. But being able to search for a lunch place when hungry and finding recommendations from friends is much more effective.

“It turns out these are very valuable to users to have recommendations by the people they trust,” he said. “Instead of sandwich boards… we revert back to the fundamentals of fulling the need the user has.”

Horowitz added that Google doesn’t “have to make payroll by jamming users with ads” on Google+.

Of course Google+ doesn’t have ads plastered all over it. It’s cross-subsidised by another business: search. Or rather, it feeds its data into another service (search) in order to add to the quality of that service’s ability to sell information about you to advertisers.

The fact that Google places the ads it builds on top of your social data on a different site is not some kind of intrinsic superiority. And given how much space of Google’s search results pages can now be given over to ads, and the fact the Google Products (pure search) got turned into Google Shopping (paid placement) it’s pretty clearly a case of pot calling kettle black.

In the real world, away from the corporate dick-waving, Facebook has actually done a pretty good job of avoiding falling into the trap of plastering intrusive ads everywhere. Paul Adams has stood up in front a conference full of agencies and told them that the interruptive model of advertising that they make their bread and butter from is dead.

I’m yet to hear anyone from Google do the same. Maybe Bradley Horowitz and Paul should have a chat about it some time. I’d love to listen in on that debate.

What’s interesting is that in terms of how they’re used by users, Facebook and Google+ differ. On FB, I mostly connect with real life friends and family  - a couple of hundred people. I don’t really connect with people I don’t know.

On G+, I follow and converse with a much wider range of people. In that sense, it’s more like Twitter, where you end up having conversations with people that you have little relationship with – it’s more like a public forum than private connections.

Where the two are alike is in the fact that they both leverage social connections and stated interests into a money-making opportunity. For Google, that’s all about improving the relevance of search results and advertising, both on its own properties (search) and in the wider world (AdWords on other sites).

Up to now, Facebook’s use of the social graph data it gathers has only been on its own property. That Bradley Horowitz has gone on the offensive at exactly the same point when Facebook is rolling out a contextual advertising programme to third parties is surely no coincidence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/narcogen David Josselyn

    Actually, Bradley’s remark made perfect sense. I say this as a moderate Facebook user, and a person that.. well, I’m on Google+, that’s probably all I can say.

    It’s not valid to just dismiss the comparison by saying “of course G+ is like that because Google also has search.” There’s no point in trying to evaluate the respective social networking services independent of other related businesses. THAT is Bradley’s point. His point is that paid placements in relevant search results are more effective and less invasive because someone searching for something is at least potentially trying to find a product or service. He’s saying that the proper use of a social networking service is as a way of targeting placements on search results– not as a target for placements. Saying that it’s not Facebook’s fault they don’t have a search business is missing the point. Perhaps what he’s saying is that the way to monetize Facebook’s access to information is to sell it to a search provider to narrow placements, and not as a platform for placements themselves. If you don’t think Facebook’s current placements are annoying in the extreme, I don’t know what to tell you. I feel they are; I keep using the platform in spite of them, not because of them.