Mark Zuckerberg gets do-over with advertisers

By Brian Morrissey


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is coming to Cannes as its Media Person of the Year. It's a heady honor for the 26-year-old, considering Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was last year's honoree and News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch spoke in 2008. It also means that on Wednesday at noon, Zuckerberg gets what is in essence a mulligan for one of his low points as CEO. Back in November 2007, he gave a stilted presentation to advertisers and agencies gathered to hear about the new Facebook ad platform. Clearly not yet comfortable as a public speaker, he made grandiose promises that Facebook would "change media forever" that day. He also led everyone to believe that Beacon, a centerpiece of the effort, was opt-in when it was not. The ensuing privacy uproar rankled some advertisers, and cemented a perception that's dogged Zuckerberg since: that he plays loose with customer privacy and isn't straightforward about Facebook's intentions. Since then, Zuckerberg hasn't had that much to say about advertising. In fact, he took pains in his most recent appearances about Facebook's new privacy controls to say advertisers (which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars with his company) are not top of mind when it comes to efforts to make the social network more open. "We are working on building an ad business," Zuckerberg has said, "but when we are working on building products, this factors in not at all." My guess is he'll butter up advertisers a little more onstage in Cannes.