Is That Facebook TV Ad Heartfelt or Hogwash? Our Staffers Weigh In

Senior editor, security and privacy
Updated

If you haven't yet seen it, Facebook last week began running a TV ad that's aimed at sprucing up the social network's dented public image. It's part of a "Here Together" campaign that essentially says, "We'll try to do better."

There's an associated blog post that links to previously announced "doing things better" initiatives.A still from the Facebook 'Here Together' TV ad. Credit: FacebookA still from the Facebook 'Here Together' TV ad. Credit: Facebook

A few expert analyses have already been written elsewhere about the ad, but we decided to ask our colleagues in the newsroom what they thought. But first, watch the ad, and let us know what you think of it in the comments.

Facebook 'Here Together' Ad

The ad did convince a couple of our staffers, which is a few more than we thought it might.

"I'm a sucker for heart-targeted messages, so I'm all pro-Facebook/weepy face," said Julie Reinken, a Tom's Guide web producer. "I don't think the people who go on Facebook all the time (mom/dad-types at least) care much about the privacy aspect since they haven't abandoned [it], but it's nice to think that Facebook will pay more attention and I, being a mom-type, appreciate it."   

But then Reinken added: "My husband thinks it's a nice ad, but is skeptical of exactly HOW they plan on doing that. After watching, his response was 'Good luck with that!'"

MORE: How to Stop Facebook From Sharing Your Data

"I think it's a nice reminder that Facebook is openly confronting the issues that users are facing now," said Space.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik. "I don't plan on quitting Facebook because I do rely on it for both work and family updates, but I do want to see some follow-through on the user experience improvements they've been pledging after the recent revelations."

Andrew Freedman, senior writer at Tom's Guide, said the ad was effective, but that he wanted more information about how Facebook planned to fix its problems.

"I see where it pulls at heartstrings, and I dare say it almost got me," Freedman said. "Except that when Facebook tells me it will protect my privacy, I want to know how. And they don't say. And that's jarring. Also, it reminded me what an emotional slog it is to keep up with Facebook and how much more fun I had on it in high school."

Matt D'Angelo, staff writer at Business.com, BusinessNewsDaily and Tom's IT Pro, had a similar take.

"I thought the beginning was a good characterization of how Facebook evolved from a service that seemed friend-forward to one that's become overrun with spam and annoying political debates," he said. "After watching it, I was still really skeptical. It's a nice thing for them to say they want to protect privacy, but I'm not sure if they'll actually do it. I felt like 'OK great, now actually go do it.'"

Anna Attkisson, editorial director of Business.com, BusinessNewsDaily and Tom's IT Pro, was more skeptical, but admitted the part about Facebook's origins worked, even if the ad overall didn't.

"I do like their characterization of how Facebook started. Seemed accurate," she said, but also said: "I've seen that commercial a few times now. I think it's a joke. It's purely a PR move meant to protect stock prices. The fact that they still say they WILL be better, not that they already ARE better, is very telling."

Tom's Guide Staff Writer Adam Ismail noticed that the ad didn't take any responsibility for abuses that had taken place on Facebook.

"The whole 'but then something happened' part, where they say they had to 'deal' with 'spam, clickbait, fake news and data misuse,' as if they didn't build a platform that rewarded or otherwise didn't penalize actors who committed all of those offenses, sounds to me like they're absolving themselves of guilt, or at least mitigating their role," Ismail said. "We're victims and it happened to us -- that's the tone I'm getting."

Some people were completely unconvinced.

"It's a nice sentiment, but just seems so unlikely that they can actually deal with those issues on their platform," said Sarah Lewin, associate editor of Space.com. "The ad (although I know it isn't supposed to) gives absolutely no information on how they might accomplish it or why this attempt to reduce spam is different than any other."

"I don't think the tone is really appropriate to how serious the issues are -- you need to win back people's trust, not just say heartfelt things," she added. "It's like, 'We dropped a baby -- here's how we care about every baby and will be sure to cherish them going forward.'"

"That [ad] was so saccharine, I think it gave me cavities," said Tom's Guide Editor Marshall Honorof. "The ad treats Facebook's embrace of fake news and data mining as though it were a new thing.

"Some of the most brilliant software engineers in the world work there," he added. "You can't tell me they all just now realized, 'This is bad.' They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and they're engaging in standard CYA protocol. The ad is a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound."

And finally, Tom's Guide Staff Writer Henry Casey reminded us that there's more than one social platform out there.

"I'm not [Facebook's] target audience anymore," he said. "I actually care about web design and not about people whom I've fallen out of touch with."

"This video reinforces why I prefer Twitter," Casey added, "where nobody's aching to stay connected to people, but instead present their messiest selves, share funny memes, and dunk on dupes."