It all started when Advertising Age reported on a speech by Ted McConnell, Proctor & Gamble’s manager of digital marketing innovation, and concluded that he was blasting targeted ads on social networks.

According to Ad Age, McConnell said, “I have a reaction to that as a consumer advocate and an advertiser. What in heaven’s name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?” He also said, “I think when we call it ‘consumer-generated media,’ we’re being predatory. Who said this is media?… Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. … We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.”

Then John Battelle, author of The Search, blasted Ad Age for its conclusions. “I\’m here to call bull on this myth,” he said, adding that he thought McConnell had been been misunderstood by the marketing magazine. Battelle appears to believe that social networks indeed are a gold mine for marketers–as long as they don’t place ads the same way they do on TV, radio, and print. “In order to market conversationally, then, a brand must not simply insinuate itself into the media others make… but rather create their own valuable conversations, and/or underwrite organic conversations that contextually make sense for that brand to support,” he said. As examples, he touted corporate blogs that give potential customers useful information that they want or need.

I agree with Battelle’s point about the corporate blogs. However, I highly doubt that most people are going to regularly read the MySpace or Facebook bloggings of some big company whilst using the network. Better to have these blogs on companies’ own websites, then optimize the heck out of ’em so that knowledge-seekers find them.

Ultimately, I have to agree with McConnell’s points about ads being intrusive upon social networkers’ conversations. (And more importantly, with Ad Age’s spin on said points.) Over the past year, I’ve noted that even among marketers, there’s no agreement about the efficacy of such campaigns. Consumers are never going to stop what they’re doing on a social site just because they see an “intriguing” ad. I’ve also pointed how opt-in SMS and email are better ways to target consumers.

Permission-based messaging is tried and true. Social network advertising? Obviously not.

Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm

“I’d rather you text me”