Facebook ads don’t work, that’s why GM pulled their budget.

Yes, they do work, and here’s a study that proves it.

No, they don’t work, the data from the study was flawed. It’s about engagement.

Oh yeah? Well, engage this: a 105 case studies with big brand names like Adidas (B2C) and American Express (B2B).

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Confused? It’s no wonder. The Facebook Ad drama is playing out, like, a saga from an episode of Mad Men, as Brian Solis so eloquently put it recently.

The discussion often centers on whether earned media is better than paid media. To me it’s the rebirth of a heated battle that’s been conceived and reconceived many times over: which is better…advertising or PR?

Facebook of course adds several new twists: we have ads, but we also have third-party apps and curated content, or organic content posted through the Facebook interface. Facebook has also supplanted these with the option of promoted posts, or paying to have our organic posts featured more prominently in the news stream of our fans. The problem is, as an industry, we are taking a multi-dimensional new media platform and squeezing it into the old framework of a flat, two-sided argument.

It’s useful to explore how even that two-sided argument – PR versus advertising – is misguided. The recent furor this week over the Cannes Awards, where ad agencies ostensibly rolled PR to sweep the awards, is a near-perfect, and relevant example. Trying to eliminate one tactic in favor of the other is a poor business objective: each has benefits and drawbacks; both can be weaved together for a complementary fit.

The notorious Larry Flynt is, well, notorious, for tying these together. He’s placed print ads in the Washington Post offering “$1 million for information about the sexual indiscretions of well-known US politicians or government officials.” Love him or hate him, his ads draw international headlines; is that advertising or PR? Advertising led and PR followed, but overall it’s a bit of both.

Apple, which has ingenuity for marketing that is rivaled only by the sleek design of its products, replicates this approach, only in reverse order. When the company is gearing up for product launch, the first place we can look for news is the bathroom. The company “lost” products not once, but twice just prior to a product launch. In this example, PR led and advertising followed.

The now infamous Old Spice campaign offers a third example. What started as an advertisement was transformed into a targeted and relevant social media campaign. That social media campaign in turn generated news; in fact it’s arguable the volume of social media is what drove news coverage. PR shaped, social media advanced and advertising reinforced – the Old Spice campaign is a textbook example of flawless execution.

These examples demonstrate there’s clearly a precedent for an effective blend of PR and advertising, what I call, and I’m certainly not the first, integrated marketing. The lesson we as marketers need to draw in our approach to Facebook marketing, is to experiment and find the right mix. Let’s avoid the old argument: it’s more irrelevant than ever.

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