August 2007: Facebook, keen to prove it has a viable business plan, announces it's to introduce a behavioural targeting ad system. But advertisers are more intrigued by the potential of tapping into the power of brand-oriented Facebook groups, especially following the success of several lobbying campaigns. Of interest in the UK, there's a revolt that forces HSBC to backtrack on student overdraft proposals and a campaign to bring back Cadbury's Wispa.
November 2007: At a presentation in New York, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announces that Facebook is launching a programme that will help advertisers set up profile pages and fan groups. He claims that this heralds the start of a new age in marcoms.
February 2008: The notion certainly seems potentially less hazardous than trying to use some of Facebook's behavioural targeting tools, including one system, codenamed "Beacon," which upsets users due to a perceived lack of privacy controls. In contrast, a rash of advertisers set up fan sites. Two high-profile UK initiatives include a "love it or hate it" Marmite page and a Mars "celebrate" initiatives that sells purchase vouchers.
February 2009: Fan site initiatives become increasingly sophisticated. For instance, just in time for St Valentine's day, Bertie Bassett enters into a marriage of convenience with a similarly imaginative construct, Betty Bassett - with the nuptials (their ceremonial side at any rate) being carried live on Facebook. But conventional advertising is growing steadily too - and in April Facebook claims to be the UK's biggest online display ad publisher.
November 2009: Activity evolves. Highlights include comparethemarket.com activity hosted by Aleksandr. Facebook tells advertisers they will have to go through "approval" processes. Separately, O2 signs a deal to support Unlimited, an entertainment space.
Fast forward ...
June 2010: Now Facebook has to work doubly hard to mollify advertisers when the site becomes a political football during the UK General Election in May, with all three main parties using controversial techniques (in a ham-fisted attempt to emulate some aspects of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign) to woo younger voters. Advertisers worry that this sort of thing can give even the more sophisticated fan site a bad name.
This article was first published on Campaign