This weekend, a few dozen companies and brands will run high-priced and high-profile ads during the Super Bowl. In fact, according to Fox, the average cost for a 30-second spot in this year's game is a record $5.6 million. If you are a company wanting to make a brand statement in a big way, the Super Bowl is the obvious place. It's not at all unreasonable to say that as many people tune in for the ads as the game. 

This year, one of the companies spending big on an ad is Facebook. While the company has tried to keep the ad under wraps, details spilled out when one of the actors, Sylvester Stallone, gave away his excitement. 

The ad will highlight Groups, which has become an important focus for the company as it tries to leverage smaller communities to increase engagement outside of the endless stream of the News Feed.

AdWeek reported that the company's CMO, Antonio Lucio says "the goal of the campaign is to build trust in the Facebook corporate brand and celebrate the value of its products, services and apps--and the important roles they play in people's lives."

If you're Facebook, however, the problems with your brand go far deeper than anything that can be fixed with a flashy Super Bowl ad. The problem with Facebook's brand starts with the fact that the company doesn't even seem to recognize that there is a problem. That's largely due to the fact that its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg is a true believer--meaning he sees Facebook as he imagines it, not as it is in reality. He simply isn't able to see the company's problems.

Make no mistake, however, Facebook has very real problems. 

Those problems start with the fundamental tension between Facebook's need for your personal information, and its ability to protect your privacy. I won't rehash the examples of privacy violations, data breaches, and scandals, but there's no question that Facebook's core business model is in direct conflict with its stated goal of creating a privacy-protective platform

And it's not a problem that you can solve by spending a few million dollars on an ad, even one featuring the wit of Chris Rock. 

If Facebook wants to run a Super Bowl ad, it should make one about how it recognizes that it is responsible for creating an enormous platform that monetizes our personal information, has resulted in countless data breaches, and has had a devastating effect on not only our public discourse but on actual elections worldwide. As a result, Facebook's ad should describe the real steps the company plans to take to make real changes to its business and its platform.

Those changes should include the ability for users to know exactly how their information is being monetized, without having to navigate through complex menus or privacy settings. It should include the requirement that Facebook's apps seek your permission every time they collects data about you, including your location.

Facebook should also include a separation between the utility of the social media platform, and the company's advertising tools. People should have the ability to opt-out of the latter entirely. 

Finally, it should include a change to the way Facebook displays content according to an algorithm that claims to be committed to free expression, but really just serves content that the company thinks will advance its purposes of creating engagement and monetizing your interactions.

Those changes would probably cost the company far more than the cost of a 30-second ad, but would do far more to build trust and fix its brand. If that's Facebook's real goal, it's time to do more than create a flashy Super Bowl ad, it's time to get to work. It's time to stop talking about how much you value your users and their privacy, and time to start actually doing it. 

Published on: Jan 29, 2020
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