How will Facebook’s $1bn Instagram photo share buy play with Mean Old Mr Advertiser?

It’s not that we’re unaware that Facebook has just bought photo-sharing app-maker Instagram for a mere $1bn or so (Instagram seems to employ about a dozen people and maybe a dog or two) it’s just that it doesn’t seem to mean that much. Apart from telling us that Facebook has a lot of money (or will have) and maybe not as much sense.

The real issue is Facebook and not Instagram of course. Is Facebook really the real deal (which most agencies and advertisers seems to think, let alone its zillions of followers) or the lead bubble in a crowded field, heading for the next big tech-driven stock market implosion (Groupon is another candidate).

Facebook’s eagerly-awaited IPO (initial public offer) could be as early as May 16 or 17, raising as much as $5bn on a total valuation as high as $100bn. This is a lot of money to lose.

Here’s what former Lehman Brothers media analyst Jill Kennedy (pictured) thought about Facebook back in January, from her OnMedea blog (Medea in classical mythology was variously a witch or an enchantress). It’s doubtful if the Instagram purchase has persuaded Jill to change her mind.

Once upon a time, in the tiny hamlet of Menlo Park, California, there was a company called Facebook.

This company was unlike any other (sorry, make that ‘like MANY others’) in that it connected people from around world through a magical and glorious technical achievement called the Internet.

Everyone loved Facebook:

“Oh my God, it is so easy to upload pictures of my baby!”

“I can’t believe I found all my old high school and college friends so easily!”

“Hey everyone, I’m off to get a coffee – can’t start my day without coffee!”

People from around the world chatted, and shared, and reconnected. There was something really exciting going on in the tiny hamlet of Menlo Park.
But then, one day, because Facebook was growing so so so very large – and its bills were growing so so so much – it needed to somehow make money.
Facebook was so kind that they didn’t want to charge people for the privilege of using its service – so it added advertising. Advertising so tiny that the people of the world didn’t even noticed the ads were there.

“There are ads on Facebook? You know, I’ve never seen one – and I certainly have never clicked on one! Good for them.”

Perhaps Mean Old Mr. Advertiser started to realize that no one was clicking or even noticing his ads.

But little Facebook still needed to get paid – I mean, even a whore has to eat – so they decided to work something out with Mean Old Mr. Advertiser.

Maybe they could somehow leverage their size and sell the personal information of their 800 million users. Would that keep Mean Old Mr. Advertiser off their backs so they could resume their happy life of connecting the world and bringing nothing but joy?

Facebook was so kind to its users that they even added a “Like” button (because “Like” is much nicer than “Dislike” and Coca-Cola doesn’t want to see how many people “Dislike” Coke Zero).

It was so simple, users could either “Like” something or choose not to hit the “Like” button. It was up to the user.

That worked for a while until the users of the world started to realize what was happening. Many users got angry and felt their privacy was being invaded.

About 15 people actually quit Facebook (while another 100 million signed up).

After a few months, things calmed in the tiny hamlet of Menlo Park and the people on Facebook – to a lesser degree – felt fairly happy again.

But then, one day, Facebook decided that the users of the world needed to share every bit of information about their lives – from birth to even death – and put it all into a very conforming and dizzying glop of data called Timeline.

Mean Old Mr. Advertiser LOVED the idea of Timeline.

Finally, Facebook was thinking like him. Now they got the idea. Mean Old Mr. Advertiser could scour the lives of the people of the world and target them with goods and services that they may or may not enjoy.
And somehow, in just a brief eight years of existence – little Facebook grew and grew and grew and became worth $100 BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS! Oh, goodness, pardon me. (An IPO last year would been insane! What a missed opportunity!… but I digress.)

Well, from here the story gets a little tragic.

The beaten down people of the world and users of Facebook grew so exhausted from the daily overhauls of the site (which were necessary to maximize revenue) that they actually stopped spending time on Facebook – instead reading real books to their children and enjoying the outside world.

Comments started to appear on other websites (yes, there are actually other websites) saying they hate Facebook, are never going back and are quitting.

Poor little Facebook. They just wanted to HELP the world – not FUCK OVER the world.

How could a crappy redesign and a selling of their soul piss people off so much?

It’s just a website after all (one that is on its way to becoming WORTHLESS and must be STOPPED for the good of the world!… one more digression).

I mean, why do the people of the world care so much?

Well, we all know how the story ends.

But do we? We’ll find out how the IPO ends soon enough. Will boss Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious (or foolhardy) buy of Instagram help his case? No doubt Mean Old Mr. Advertiser will have the last word.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.