Facebook's New Ad Finds 'Real Human Emotion' in Chairs

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Just as Facebook announced its 1 billionth monthly active user, the social network released its first major commercial, in which the company tries to show how human the Internet activity that involves no face-to-face interaction really is. After watching the spot, which somehow connects the vastness of the universe to sharing links and photos, you get the sense that the social network wanted to go deep. Facebook isn't just a website, it's part of some greater human desire, the ad claims. Not too surprisingly, it turns out the entire creative process, from the initial idea, to the director, to the final spot revolved around what Karl Lieberman, the creative director at Weiden, the ad agency with which Facebook worked, called "real human emotion," in an interview Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz

The concept behind the ad, according to Facebook's head of consumer marketing Rebecca Van Dyck, is to link Facebook with some innate human desire to connect. "We make the tools and services that allow people to feel human, get together, open up. Even if it's a small gesture, or a grand notion -- we wanted to express that huge range of connectivity and how we interact with each other," Van Dyck told Diaz. First way to do that: Write some heady copy, apparently. "The Things That Connect Us" spot begins describing how chairs are one of those things which glue us together and that "that's why chairs are like Facebook." (Because Facebook is one of those things, too. Get it?) It gets even more existential later, ending with the following lines. "The universe, it is fast and dark and makes us wonder if we are alone. So maybe the reason we make all of these things is to remind ourselves that we are not." 

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Next, the social network hired Academy Award-nominated director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, best know for his chopped-up narrative style of 21 Grams and Babel, "to drop that layer of real human emotion on top of it," in the words of Liberman. Inarritu is particularly suited for that job, as his commercial making accolades include the sweet Proctor & Gamble Olympics Ad honoring the hard work of moms below and this 2010 Nike World Cup Commercial.

Both of those spots turn big commercial events into something greater than a money-making endeavor. "[It] manages to coherently say something about how one event can tie the entire world together," wrote MovieLine's Christopher Rosen, after gushing over the soccer ad. The moms P&G spot had the Internet in tears, with its "moving and powerful piece," as ESPN's Abigail Lorge described it. We didn't think about the things P&G and Nike were trying to sell us, just connecting their brands with something greater than stuff.

Inarritu's Facebook creation also attempts to use emotion as a way to distract us from what the social network really wants out of us. That's why it starts with chairs and ends with the universe, rather than logging in and liking statuses. But, unlike those other two ads, which show humans experiencing things together, the deepness doesn't come off as heartfelt, but just kind of silly. So absurd that someone has already likened the chair concept to Clint Eastwood's equally as ridiculous RNC chair, with the twitter handle @Facebookschair

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.