Ad of the Day: Facebook

The social network promises its 1 billion users warmth in the vast, cold universe

Here's what's great about Facebook's new brand spot from Wieden + Kennedy and Babel director Alejandro Iñárritu: It looks absolutely gorgeous.

Here's what's not so great about it: It won't do much to convince anyone that Facebook isn't, at its core, arrogant and condescending and not really to be trusted with the power it wields.

The social network just reached the hallowed 1 billion user mark, a truly amazing accomplishment. The new 90-second commercial, posted on a special Facebook page and teased from the log-in screen today, is timed to that milestone, and not surprisingly, takes a sweeping—indeed, cosmic—view of it. W+K was an inspired choice for an agency to deliver such a message; it makes some of the most poetic, big-picture advertising around. Unfortunately, in suggesting Facebook makes people feel a deeply human warmth, the spot might end up just leaving you cold.

It begins with an iconic-looking image of a chair levitating in a forest—a human artifact carved from the nature behind it—and then shows people of all colors and cultures sitting in them. (The ad, filmed in Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, New Orleans and Buenos Aires, truly looks incredible. It's one beautiful set piece after another.) Then comes the female voiceover.

"Chairs," she says. "Chairs are made so that people can sit down and take a break. Anyone can sit on a chair. And if the chair is large enough, they can sit down together. And tell jokes. Or make up stories. Or just listen. Chairs are for people. And that is why chairs are like Facebook."

The simplicity of the writing, and its cadences, are meant to hint at a grand and universal truth. But it's so simple as to feel dumbed down—like it's explaining something obvious to a child. "That is why chairs are like Facebook" also quickly deflates the atmosphere. (To some, it may be a laugh line.)

The next section expands the metaphor. "Doorbells. Airplanes. Bridges. These are things people use to get together, so they can open up and connect about ideas and music and other things that people share. Dance floors. Basketball. A great nation. A great nation is something people build so they can have a place where they belong."

We've gone from a chair to a bridge to a great nation. What's next? "The universe," says the voiceover. "It is vast and dark, and makes us wonder if we are alone. So maybe the reason we make all of these things is to remind ourselves that we are not."

A company that has 1 billion users probably thinks it can't overreach. Yet this ad does. Facebook's invention, the spot says, is as elemental as a chair—and as profound as art, the previous standard bearer for easing the pain of existential human angst. Except, of course, it's not—not really. It's a revolutionary way to communicate and share media and keep in touch. But it's a channel. That a billion people find Facebook useful doesn't mean they find it transcendent. It may cover the planet, but it doesn't speak for the planet.

This spot really could have worked. W+K's great strength is in celebrating humanity—whether saluting the love and loyalty of moms for Procter & Gamble or the struggle and perseverance of athletes for Nike. This Facebook ad wants to celebrate human beings and their yearning for connection. But mostly it celebrates Facebook—marveling at the invention, rather than at those who use it. That's a missed opportunity.

Facebook's reach is unprecedented. But it starts with people, not with chairs.


Client: Facebook

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