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How our CEO struck a nerve on Friends Day

Our top dog, Andy Hinder, isn’t one to bite his tongue when it comes to digital. After thirty years of pioneering data-informed creativity, he’s quick to spot a cock-up. So when Facebook put its user data to sloppy use, he was one of the first to call them out…

The internet was quick to jump on board, sharing experiences of their own ‘personal’ video. While some people were happy to see moments they’d shared with genuine friends, others faced ghosts they thought they’d escaped: dead pets, ex-wives, selfies that seemed like a good idea at the time, even a picture of Pierce Brosnan on a horse.

Facing unwanted memories wasn’t even the worst of it. Some people were greeted by the message: "Sorry! We don’t have enough content to make a Friends Day video for you." Which apparently felt like a polite way of being told that they don’t have any friends.

Mark Zuckerberg’s introductory post claimed that “Friendship is what gives meaning to our lives” and “not often enough are we taught to celebrate friends”. You can’t really argue with that, but it takes a human to understand what it means.

He tried to teach the lesson to a computer by looking at online friendships with the highest frequency of posts, mutual check-ins and tagged photographs. But without a human to evaluate the emotional value, the attempt was largely a failure.

In all, Facebook’s Friend Day video was too much of an oxymoron – automated yet ‘personal’, touting friendship as important while being controlled by an emotionless algorithm. It was an attempt to celebrate Facebook’s twelfth birthday. But, like many twelfth birthdays, the balloon animal of expected joy soon lost its puff.

So what should brands learn from this epic failure?

A: Don’t try to come up with your own Dead Pets Day or Happy How Slim You Were 4 Years Ago Day.

B: If you’re using your customers’ data in your marketing (which you obviously should be), make sure you have a firm strategy behind it – don’t just hit and hope.