How NOT To Do Facebook Ads

Over the weekend I was scrolling through my feed on Facebook and came across this Sponsored Post from the United States Postal Service, USPS. It caught my eye because it had Spider-Man prominently displayed with the caption “Always at your Facebook Ad Failservice” accompanying it. This immediately trigger some thoughts and emotions about the USPS that many Americans might have. The words “Always” and “Service” are not some of the words that we typically or positively feel about the sinking giant.

Nevertheless, I clicked on the link in the ad to view the website, then I clicked the comments of the sponsored post to see what people were saying. I don’t know why I was so shocked, but I was. There were over 350 comments on the post and the majority were highly critical, negative or at least asking questions about the responsibility of the USPS to run such an ad.

The Spider-Man Facebook ad is part of a larger media campaign that is coupled with the release of the new film. Here’s the television ad that is also part of the campaign.

Whoever inside the USPS leadership and/or their ad agency hired to create and executive this campaign that did not see a potential negative backlash, should receive at least 40 lashes with a wet noodle. The messaging surrounding the post flies in direct contrast with the average consumers view of the government agency. Furthermore, as many of the comments surrounding the campaign point out, the agency should not be spending massive sums of money to partner on such things with Hollywood, when they are in such financial trouble to begin with. Isn’t this just common sense? Epic Fail in my humble opinion.

What can the average marketer take away from this fail?

1) Know your audience and the potential negative perceptions they have about your industry, product, service or brand. Don’t set yourself up for failure by using the wrong messaging that may spark negative results.

2) Be careful what your ad claims. Ask yourself how your audience might react to the claims you are making in your ads. Instead, adjust the messaging to fill the needs that your target audience has or a provide a specific offer that is valuable to them. Do NOT make claims that your audience may readily disagree with and spark controversy.

3) Stay clear of controversy. Brands, industries, products and services should be extremely aware of their audiences sentiment and steer clear of controversial language. Advertising is hard enough, don’t make it more difficult by introducing potentially controversial things into your campaign.

The USPS situation teaches us to know our audience very well before we conduct a Facebook advertising campaign. Their fail is less to do with who they are as an agency or how well they actually perform what they do, but more about their failure to recognize their audiences perceptions, how it relates to their claims in the ad and most importantly the controversy that could arise from it. What’s more, they failed to recognize the social media marketing consequences that can result from missing on all these points.



11 thoughts on “How NOT To Do Facebook Ads

  1. The same thought can be said about stadium sponsor naming rights, especially if that business is in the health care industry. The issue of affordable health care is big in the U.S. (now mandatory to have health insurance), but a company of health care spending several million dollars on stadium naming may not go so well with the public. Good examples are Providence Field and Moda Center, both in Portland. I’ve read negative criticism about the naming rights from social media to newspaper letter submissions.

    Excellent post.

    1. Very true Bryan. But most SMB’s will never rise to that level of ability or stupidity, so I focus the post around social media marketing and how they could unknowingly make a similar error that affects their brand.

  2. Great Article and yes the problem is the USPS didn’t deliver the package, spider man did, implying that without spiderman the usps could not have done it. silly and really the whole ad does not make sense

    1. Knillolette, we are sure many people have used them without any problems, however the overwhelming sentiment nationally is not good. The what and how of this campaign and the timing of their horrid budget issues that requires taxpayers money to bail them out, coupled with the very poor sentiment is what collide to make this a major fail.

      1. Great article! The commercial spot is a huge fail. It starts with a USPS employee saying “you can trust us …” but Spiderman performs the delivery. It’s far more about Spiderman than USPS. Does anyone come away from this spot with an actual, concrete reason to use Priority mail? No. Do we lean anything about Priority mail? No. The interesting thing is that this marketing campaign was created under the postal service’s chief marketing office (recently hired) who previously worked for Coca Cola. Pairing a super hero with a sugary beverage makes more sense than pairing that hero with a delivery service hoping to create an image for dependability. Silly, amateurish campaign that did little more than anger USPS employees and the public.

      2. Most big brand advertising is this way Karin. Most don’t however have a horrid reputation, take public funds and also fail in social all at the same time. That makes this stand out far more than others.

        P.S. Most big ad agencies and PR firms don’t get social either. When they get their hands in that part of a big brands reputation, things get even worse!

        Great input! Thanx for jumping in.

      3. Thanks for your response! I’ve examined the USPS Facebook page, and its problems go well beyond that one post. I invite you to review the last several weeks of posts and compare them to the Facebook pages of USPS competitors, FedEx and UPS. Their competitors’ social media looks great (featuring terrific shots of modern delivery equipment and other images that say “we’re a modern company, do business with us”) while USPS relies in large part on pictures of rusting mailboxes, nostalgia and dilapidated post offices (which touch on negative hot button issues that employees respond angrily to). Their comments section is a disaster area. At the UPS and FedEx pages, when customers have questions about deliveries, they ALWAYS receive a response with helpful contact information. At USPS, they are totally ignored. Sometimes, USPS employees will jump in and call these customers “idiots” and ask them to go elsewhere. Terrible! I’d really like you to do a post on this someday. Thanks again.

      4. I don’t often write about big brands and mostly what they do is irrelevant to the rest of the social media marketing world. I did observe the things you reference here though Karin. You are absolutely correct!

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