Good article in the Economist surveying the recent ad platforms launched by the social networks. Whether these ad networks prove to be the fourth generation of online advertising or fuel for increasing banal clutter as posited by the article will prove itself over time.
But the biggest issue or overlooked point is that it is just another form of "buying media." Aka buying people's attention. Marketers, and maybe it's the commission based compensation model, really like things they can buy. But as communicators we mustn't forget that if you have something interesting and comnpelling to say, share or show you can earn your media. What if you spent your media budget on creating and producing more, bigger, better and richer ideas. Make incredible interactive experiences, entertaining brand films brand films or engaging community events.
Now that would truly leverage word of mouth. We must be concerned that the failure of the emerging online ad platforms will be the same attitude of telling people what you want to tell them, rather than giving people something they are interested in and want to watch. I love earned media, because it's free media and means people are actually paying attention.