Facebook Home ads show Facebook at its worst
Facebook is this amazing phenomenon that has touched over one billion people in the world over the last few years. We are more closely connected than ever before, and sharing a special moment or idea has become a natural and primary instinct for most people.
When Facebook is working, it is helping people have more meaningful interactions with each other because we ambiently know what is happening when we are apart. This happens because Facebook has created the most powerful tools to stay connected — to share everything, message each other, and give each other positive feedback and Likes.
Facebook Home seems like it has the chance to show Facebook at its very best. Installing Home turns your phone into something that is content and people first. When you turn on your phone, you immediately see useful and meaningful content without having to click to an app. When you get messages, you don’t have to go into a siloed app to talk to friends, messaging is pervasive. There are many other small touches here that make a big difference. “People first, not apps first" is a pretty good idea.
When I heard that Facebook was putting a big budget and mass media commercials behind Facebook Home, I was excited. Between Apple's commercials for iPhone and iPad and Google's for Chrome and other services, we have seen a rebirth in the storytelling of how new technology can make our lives better. I still tear up every time I watch “Dear Sophie” from Google.
But when I saw the actual ads for Facebook Home, I was appalled. (You can see all of the ads here.) The “Dinner" and “Launch Day" ads show Facebook at its worst. Rather than enjoying a family dinner, or Zuck talking to celebrate the team, we see people tuning out and being as distracted and un-present as possible. Ignoring your family to watch drumming at dinner seems fairly rude. A few minutes to celebrate a launch with your favorite CEO should be especially fun for a team rather than something to avoid and watch your friends’ videos. (Also why put the CEO in a commercial if you are going to make him look boring and let him drone on?) These distractions end up completely taking over the scene, which just doesn't seem like the image Facebook would want. The "Airplane" ad is just strange: half naked friends in baggage compartments and drag queens(?) joining a business trip.
Instead, wouldn't you love to see someone having a killer time with family or celebrating launch? And to see them share that special moment with friends so that it immediately appears on the phones of friends around the world who can celebrate with them immediately from their phones? Or at the end of a business trip, seeing someone catch up with what has been happening with friends and using chatheads to plan for what to do as soon as they get back?
Facebook is celebrating all the wrong things. It advocates tuning out the people around you to see what else is happening that must be more interesting elsewhere. It foments FOMO. And it makes Facebook Home look like the best possible way to be the least present. I don’t know if Facebook is just going for humor or irony in these ads, or if it truly thinks these are great examples of Facebook Home. If the latter, then I worry even more that Facebook is losing touch with what makes it so powerful, useful, and important.
Disclosure: I worked for Facebook in 2008-2009, am a shareholder in the company, I use Facebook every day, and my firm Greylock Partners invested early in Facebook. Or in other words, I still care a lot about the product and company :)