France Bids Adieu to Facebook and Twitter in TV Commercials

French FlagThe words “Facebook” and “Twitter” have been banned from being used on French television, Social Times reports.   The use of the social networking sites’ names on TV leads the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) to believe that smaller social networking sites and start ups have very little chance of competing with the networking giants.   The CSA, which is very similar to the FCC, asks that advertisers be more generic when directing consumers to their sites.

“Find us on social networking websites” is more appropriate than the “Follow us on Twitter” or “Find us on Facebook” taglines, according to CSA spokeswoman Christine Kelly.   She adds, “If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it’s opening a Pandora’s box…other social networks will complain to us saying, ‘Why not us?’”

France apparently has a soft spot for Friendster, Bebo, and Myspace, which remain unaffected by the ban.   This makes me wonder about the last time the words “Check out my Bebo!” were uttered by anyone at all.

While the CSA certainly is correct in pointing out that Facebook and Twitter are at the top of the social networking pyramid, they fail to recognize that many companies use these platforms as a primary means of interaction with customers.

In today’s conventional advertising model, a TV ad refers to the company’s social network, which in turn refers back to the company’s website for purchases to be made.   Businesses are intentionally choosing the top two networks because they have the largest target audience. I personally think that the top social networks increase the bonds with customers much more than TV ads will.   Consumers in France, upon hearing “Find us on social networks” on TV will still probably check Twitter and Facebook first, as they are so widely established and universally accepted.

The CSA insists that the ruling was not an attempt to regulate the adoption of English words via France’s Toubon laws, either.

Some related data from Nielsen shows that consumers around the world spent 82% more time on social networks in December 2009 than in the previous year.   The average time per person in the same study for the month of December 2009 was four hours for France:

So is this decree really about fair competition, or is it a modern example of unnecessary micro-regulation?   It will be interesting to see if any petitions from Facebook, Twitter, and/or the people of France will help remove the ban in the near future. While I am not a citizen of France, I find the CSA’s decision to increase regulation on TV advertising to be redundant.   More and more individuals choose to remain on the computer rather than watch television as it is, so why is it necessary to create more red tape for the creators of ads for this form of declining media? I’d like to see what Twitter-reliant (read: obsessed) CNN would try to do in that country.

The inclusion of Facebook, Twitter, and other social network names in commercials is not intended to be advertising for these sites.   At its extreme, saying “Find us on Facebook” is a challenge directed at potential customers to try and remember the name of the brand the next time you are on a computer. Time will tell whether or not such a ban may upset more people than it benefits.   Laissez-faire will have to wait, for now.