Updated – See below.
AdAge published an article that sent ripples throughout the blogosphere with some questionable information. While not the basis of the article (that was mainly about how Facebook has become a dominant force in advertising), the article suggested that "the third-biggest advertiser [on Facebook] was a completely unknown brand called Make-My-Baby.com, citing "ComScore’s third-quarter analysis."
As more information has surfaced throughout the day, we’ve learned that comScore claimed (in an email to Danny Sullivan) that "Make-my-baby was not one of the top advertisers on Facebook." It remains unclear whether comScore was just initially wrong and AdAge passed on the wrong info, or whether the inaccuracy started with AdAge.
Brandon McCormick, a spokesperson for Facebook itself, tells WebProNews, "Not only is make-my-baby.com not one of our largest advertisers, they are not an advertiser at all. In fact, their practices are against our ad policies and would be rejected as a result. This is true whether they tried to run ads with us or an affiliate did."
So let’s back up for a minute. The practices referred to, which are the practices that made this a compelling story from the get go, were that make-my-baby.com was forcing users to install a toolbar that switched their default search to Bing, as the site was apparently run by a company trying to capitalize on a Microsoft affiliate program.
Google’s Matt Cutts, who discovered the practice and wrote about it on Google Buzz last night, noted that he was quickly able to find additional sites that were doing the same thing. All of this led to us questioning how much of this was actually taking place, and whether it could be playing a role in Bing’s impressive growth. I think this is still a valid question, but there is a pretty big difference between such a site being one of the top advertisers on the world’s largest social network (with 1.75 billion impressions, as reported by AdAge), and not advertising on Facebook at all. That greatly changes things in terms of reach.
While it was never my intent to suggest that Bing owed its impressive growth entirely to sites like this, it seemed possible that it could at least be padded to some extent, and could still be even if to a much, much lesser extent.
Either way, the whole thing appears to have worked out for the best, as a Microsoft spokesperson told us, "Distribution deals and affiliate programs are an important part of how all search engines introduce their product to customers. That said, we have been made aware of some practices from a specific publisher that are not compliant with the guidelines, best practices and principles put in place by Bing. As a result, the relationship with this publisher will be terminated."
So, for now, the mystery remains how AdAge came up with the idea that make-my-baby.com was the third largest advertiser on Facebook, if ComScore, the alleged source has denied the information. The original AdAge article has yet to be updated as of the time of this writing. We’ll update further as more info comes to light.
Update: Sullivan was sent a copy of the comScore report by AdAge. Apparently the confusion stemmed from make-my-baby.com being listed as the third largest adertiser in social networking, based on comScore’s information – a category, which was comprised of Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites). So while the site may not have been a big advertiser on Facebook, it would appear that it was still a big social media advertiser – and still a problem.