On Black Friday, Facebook and Walmart launched the social network’s largest mobile advertising campaign ever. Walmart had pre-purchased the ads, “edging out” other retailers for exposure at the start of the holiday season, according to The Wall Street Journal. Was the campaign successful, and will Facebook partner with other brands in this way?
Walmart’s “mobile-ad blitz” ran for 72 hours. It consisted of 50 million ads which showed up in the Facebook mobile news feeds of tens millions of people. That’s a lot of exposure – though Walmart didn’t reveal the cost of purchasing this ad space.
The results, according to The Wall Street Journal, were “mixed.” The campaign drew over 100,000 comments, but Walmart’s Facebook page was also filled with comments complaining about unwanted ads. Wal-Mart’s marketing chief Stephen Quinn told the Journal that he “never saw this level of engagement” with a digital campaign – but didn’t reveal how much of the sentiment was positive vs. negative.
Facebook and Walmart started working closely together on the campaign back in October, and a Facebook team was in place for the weekend after Thanksgiving – answering questions, delivering reports and compiling statistics on the success of the mobile ads.
The campaign shows Facebook’s willingness to work directly with big advertisers, in some cases “using those brands as labs to test new ad products.” The Journal particularly noted Facebook’s desire to strengthen its mobile advertising revenue, and said the social networking giant may make similar campaign options available to other companies.
The 50 million ads purchased for this campaign were only a portion of the two billion ads that Walmart bought on Facebook this holiday season. The retail giant also made adjustments – in the moment – using Facebook to promote certain items. For instance, when the company saw that a pair of speakers weren’t selling well on Black Friday, it posted them on the Walmart Facebook page as a “special buy.” The result? The speakers sold out throughout the U.S.
Walmart saw some immediate gains from holiday efforts on Facebook, with 164,000 new Facebook fans over Thanksgiving weekend (bringing the total number of fans to over 26 million) and more than one million daily comments, mentions and interactions on its Facebook page. But again, not all comments were positive; many mentioned low employee wages and poor working conditions, or were complaints about unwanted ads. It’s also unclear how many of these likes and interactions were a result of the mobile ad campaign specifically, or a result of wider holiday advertising efforts.
Brad Tuttle at TIME writes, “The question that still remains, though, is to what extent, if at all, the tailored-ad blitz on Facebook truly worked for Walmart.” While it may be difficult to determine the success of the mobile campaign, it’s interesting to note that Walmart’s Stephen Quinn sees Facebook not only as a marketing tool, but also “at the core…of customer service.”
What do you think – can Facebook make this kind of tailored advertising opportunity worthwhile for advertisers? Will this experiment “spur on other retailers to use social media in new and bigger ways?”