Facebook is launching the largest brand marketing campaign in company history today, barely two weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of congressional lawmakers.
Still reeling from a massive shift in public perception (and media coverage) since the Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the U.K. firm gobbled up the personal data of more than 50 million people, Facebook is looking to address people’s concerns head on.
The company is hoping it’ll show how it’s taking a broader view of its responsibilities, that it takes those responsibilities seriously, and is working to improve Facebook. The first TV spot will air during the NBA Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Under the tagline “Here together,” Facebook is harking back to its roots, reminding people why they signed up for the social network in the first place. (Sadly, the campaign doesn’t include a Zuckerberg remake of BP CEO Tony Hayward’s oil spill apology on South Park.) It’s a tidy mix of aw-shucks, coupled with the standard Silicon Valley social utopia vibe—hence the twee-spirational piano soundtrack. Created by the company’s in-house marketing team, called The Factory, it skillfully uses everyday images, posts, and people to sell the idea of Facebook back to us.
“We came here for the friends, we got to know the friends of our friends–then our old friends from middle school, our mom, our ex, and our boss joined forces to wish us a happy birthday. Then we discovered our uncle used to play in a band, and realized he was young once, too. And we found others just like us and, just like that, felt a little less alone. But then something happened. We had to deal with spam, clickbait, fake news, and data misuse. That’s going to change. From now on, Facebook will do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy, so we can all get back to what made Facebook great in the first place: friends. Because when this place does what it was built for, then we all get a little closer.”
Frankly, it’s a pretty damn good ad, with one slight problem. The company punted on the opportunity to take any real responsibility for its actions.
“But then something happened.”
Indeed, something happened. While it wasn’t Facebook working with Russia’s Internet Research Agency, or gleefully handing Cambridge Analytica all our personal data, the company’s existing policies (or lack thereof) did help enable these things to happen.
With this campaign, Facebook seems to be painting itself as a victim. And maybe that’s actually how it sees itself. But let’s not forget the company made almost $40 billion in ad revenue last year, largely based on the data it was able to gather about you from all your old friends from middle school, your mom, your ex, and your boss.