If you were one of the millions watching the England Vs. Australia Rugby match over the weekend you might have spotted the Facebook advert shown during the ad break (that is, if you England fans were able to see through the streaming tears...). This is an expensive media slot - and Facebook must have paid through the teeth for it. But why? The company is already growing at a ridiculous rate worldwide, and everyone knows what it is, so why does it need to advertise?
It's growing but it needs to grow faster
The problem with being a public company with investors means that there's always huge pressure to grow faster. Take Apple for example. Apple seems to break sales records left, right and centre, and yet the expectations are so high that it keeps being a "disappointment" and it's share price dips.
Facebook is no different - and if anything, given it's a more recent product type, the pressure is multiplied to prove that it's a viable business model in the long term.
Yes, Facebook is still growing but not all the stats are golden. For example: in the UK 35% of 16-18 year olds say they will use the platform less often this year. 75% of those aged 18-29 say they used Facebook less last year.
Those aren't good numbers and so Facebook has to show it is trying to get back into the minds of these key demographics.
To have a story
Any marketer will tell you that a brand needs a mission. It needs a clear reason to exist - something that allows it to have a place in the world. Facebook's recent advertising campaigns do not focus on products but instead on these areas.
It's an attempt by the team to start fighting against the cynics out there. The ones who believe Facebook is bad for society, or for those who view their feed as just a collation of shallow content. Whether or not this is true it's not something Facebook wants to be viewed as.
That's why the adverts tell more of a story about the brand. They are trying to win people back, and have users see Facebook as an enabler of great things.
It needs to show expertise in advertising
It's easy to forget that Facebook has two audiences. The first is "everyone" - its day to day users. But these people don't really provide Facebook with an income, just with data. The second audience is brands - specifically brands that want to advertise. This is where the pot of gold lies.
So, like many other advertisers out there, they run adverts to show that they are part of the world. That they are an extension of the industry and that they understand it.
Ever since the original chair advert Facebook has approached its campaigns with finesse and an impeccable amount of polish. Whether people like them or not (I'll leave out my thoughts on this), it's undeniable that they have a high production value.
That's because Facebook, to show their expertise, need to ensure that they know how to have impact.
Because it's expected
There's one other reason Facebook could be advertising and it's pretty simple: Big brands advertise. They are insanely big - their "population" is bigger than any country in the world. Brands a fraction of Facebook's size sometimes advertise just to keep its name out there, shouting about how great they are.
And perhaps that's the crux of it. Instead of asking "Why do they?" - if they didn't perhaps the bigger, more concerning question would be "Why are they not?".