Friday, May 7, 2010

Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim: McDonald’s Is McReady to McUse Facebook Location Service

Last month speculation swirled about the upcoming location services that Facebook was working on getting to market. With the interest in Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown gaining more and more momentum there isn’t a better time for Facebook to come in and put their giant footprint on this developing landscape.

AdAge reports that McDonald’s is already working with the social networking behemoth around this service and will be front and center when Facebook delivers the anticipated functionality.

Facebook is preparing to launch location-based status updates for its users. But the social network is also planning to offer it to marketers, including McDonald’s.

As early as this month, the social-networking site will give users the ability to post their location within a status update. McDonald’s, through digital agency Tribal DDB, Chicago, is building an app with Facebook would allow users to check in at one of its restaurants and have a featured product appear in the post, such as an Angus Quarter Pounder, say executives close to the deal.

Apparently one of the benefits of telling people where you are is also a way of letting them know that your diet is over for the foreseeable future. I think I have my first comment ready for a friend of mine on Facebook that reports their location there and, in effect, advertises for the hamburger king. It’ll read something like “I know the location of the nearest EMS vehicle so when your heart stops it should be able to get to ya pretty quickly!”

OK, so that was a bit overboard but you get the picture. Brands will have to consider just what the up AND downsides are of letting their followers tell about their engagement with the brand. People on social networks are just as adept at making fun of what people do as they are of giving an affirming “atta boy!” to their efforts (at least my friends are ;-) ).

So what might this deal look like?

Facebook is not directly charging McDonald’s to build the app; Facebook generally does not charge developers to build on its platform. But executives with knowledge say it was negotiated as part of a bigger media buy on Facebook, and McDonald’s will be the first marketer to take advantage of the service.

Facebook is taking its usual ‘high road’ approach and acting as if they would never do anything to make money other than get paid by advertisers for their advertising platform.

Yesterday, Kevin Colleran, director-national sales at Facebook, was asked about such a capability at Resource Interactive’s iCitizen Conference in Columbus, Ohio. “We’re still trying to figure out what our strategy is,” Mr. Colleran said. “When we launch, whatever our product in that space, we will figure it out.”

He also underscored that Facebook wouldn’t attempt to monetize geolocation capabilities in the near term. “We never launch a functionality with the intent of monetizing it,” he said. “The best case in point would be [advertisers] are frustrated. We will not allow them to buy an ad on mobile.”

Huh? What flavor Kool-Aid is being served at the Facebook mess hall these days?

Mr. Colleran noted that Facebook has the world’s largest mobile application, with more than 100 million users each day. “We don’t make a single dime off it,” he said. “And that is our intent.” Facebook, he said, is profitable because of the advertising on alone.

Ok, so maybe the real story here isn’t that Facebook is on the verge of rolling out geolocation options for its service but more that they are not looking to monetize anything about Facebook other than through its advertising offers. Maybe this kind of spin was cooked up by the same team that tells the world that Facebook is very concerned about user privacy. It’s just not very believable.

So are you excited to let your friends in Facebook know where you are at every minute of the day and then let brands piggy back on your activities for their benefit? Maybe next we’ll get brand clothing to wear at the brand places so we can then take brand pictures of ourselves using the brand’s stuff then posting it on branded Facebook updates.

Sounds brand grand! Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim

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