Facebook, in its advertising, used to get all caught up in lofty and tortured metaphors for friendship. But its latest ads—gritty, immediate, powerfully evocative—show how far the social network has come in grounding its message in more relatable truths.
Three new 60-second ads from in-house agency The Factory meditate on just what friendship means to people. And they succeed on almost every level, for a variety of reasons.
First, the writing is poetic and—maybe most critically—humble. "They make our lives a little different, leave us a little bit changed," the voiceover says of friends in the first spot. The self-effacing tone is a thread that runs through the whole campaign (and is the polar opposite of the cosmic pretensions in the old "Chairs" ad).
The writing also weaves in the familiar Facebook nomenclature—"likes," "shares," "friend requests"—in ways that mesh with real life, and don't feel purely virtual. "They drag us into their madness, make us heroes in their stories," says the narrator. "So we let their likes become our likes, and the things they share become the things we share."
The casting and direction—by MJZ's Mike Mills—are also fantastic. Almost everyone in the spots looks a little bit odd. There are no all-American beauties at all, which gives the whole enterprise a kind of redemptive vibe. These are people who craved friendship but sought it cautiously, then cemented it passionately when it happened. (The casting is also as diverse as it gets. One spot even features an interracial gay kiss—and Facebook didn't even turn off the YouTube comments.)
That passion is captured perfectly in so many of the vignettes. These characters don't have any dialogue, but each scene is clearly—sometimes mysteriously—filled with life. The few seconds in the car in "Our Friends" are particularly evocative. It's unclear what's happening, but it looks like dangerous fun—a story to be told later. (The camerawork extends this, slowly moving in or out of each scene, witness to lives that aren't standing still.)
There's only the occasional glimpse of a mobile phone—wisely suggesting that the platform is secondary to the experiences that can be lived, and then shared on it.
Finally, there's the music—spare piano versions of Rihanna's "Umbrella," the Cure's "Close to Me" and Madonna's "Like a Prayer." The tracks do a nice job of lending atmosphere that feels, like the best friendships, both familiar and new.
Facebook has been doing strong advertising for about six months now, but this is its best work yet. Whether the company even needs to promote itself is another issue, but at least these days it's doing it right.
Agency: The Factory
Executive Creative Director: Scott Trattner
Creative Director: Kevin Butler
Creative Director/Design Director: Josh Higgins
Associate Creative Director: Omid Rashidi
Copywriter: James Smith
Producer: Adrian Gunadi
Director: Mike Mills
Executive Producer: Emma Wilcockson
Editorial: Spot Welders
Editor: Haines Hall
Executive Producer: Carolina Sanborn
VFX Supervisor: Patrick Murphy
Lead Flame Artist: Brendan Crockett
Producer: Stacy Kessler-Aungst
Sound Design: Lime Studios
Mixers: Loren Silber, Mark Meyuhas, Matt Miller, Rohan Young, Zac Fisher