Packaged goods giant Mars will become the first advertiser to sell actual products on Facebook, a move aimed at building the commercial credentials of the social network.
The deal follows the recent backlash around the launch of Facebook’s Beacon, an advertising platform that allowed brands to pump ads without user consent. Facebook was forced to change the service to include an opt-in element.
This will be the first time that users on Facebook will be able to purchase actual and not “just virtual” products.
The applications will launch on Valentine’s Day. Called Celebrate, the service will enable users to buy actual Mars gifts which can be redeemed at participating stores through the use of a scanable, unique mobile voucher ID.
A user on the Celebrate application will be able to select, for example, a virtual box of Maltesers and send it to a friend on Facebook. When this message is opened, the user will be asked to enter his or her mobile number and an SMS barcode will be sent. That user can then go into a participating store, pick up a box of Maltesers, have the mobile code scanned and then leave with the goods.
The tie-up with Mars comes as Facebook UK commercial director Blake Chandlee, in an exclusive interview with Marketing Week, criticised retail, finance and travel advertisers for being slow to invest in social networking, unlike packaged goods brands.
Chandlee says brands like Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble already have Facebook presence, but that finance, travel and retail companies are still trying to “figure out the use of social networking, consistent with their traditional methodologies.”
He adds that social networking is about brand building and direct response is a part of Facebook’s “overall mix, but because direct response relies heavily on standardised ad banners and buttons, direct marketers are still trying to figure out how effective social networks are in regard to just banners and buttons.”