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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Surprise! Facebook Has No Problem Running Ads for Users' Google+ Accounts

Facebook appears to be happy to take advertisers’ money in exchange for a slow drip of users to Google+.

  • July 17, 2011

TechCrunch has uncritically reported that the first-ever advertisement on Facebook for a Google+ account has been taken down, but subsequent users attempting the same trick have encountered no resistance from the company.

First, a little background: Facebook reserves the right to refuse any ad for any reason, and specifically forbids ads for competing services, so it would be well within its rights to ban any such ad.

However, when marketing strategist and Google+ user Julio Fernandez attempted to reproduce the experiment, he failed. That is, he was successful in posting an ad to Facebook that advertises his profile in Google+.

So which is it—is Facebook banning users from posting ads for Google+, or isn’t it? Or is it selectively applying its terms of service?

Michael Johnson, who posted the original ad, has sent along a screenshot of the rejection email Facebook sent him. It appears legit—which means that Facebook is inconsistently applying its ad standards when it comes to Google+ ads. Possibly, according to this thread on Hacker news, because the ad approval process itself is semi-automated.

Johnson’s initial announcement of his experiment, trumpets “CALLING ALL JOURNALISTS, BLOGGERS & TECHNOPHILES” and ends with the call to action “COVERAGE NEEDED: PLEASE SHARE.” (Emphasis his.)

Johnson’s announcement of the banning of his ad carried similar calls to action, and he lists “Marketing, Advertising, SEO” under his occupations. In short, everything about this smells like a too-perfect attempt to generate as much publicity as possible. But if Facebook really did ban Johnson’s ad, that’s to his credit—because it worked.

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