The Sitdown

Adweek brings together Facebook's sales chief with GroupM's top digital exec

After Facebook’s IPO—and lingering questions about whether its ads even work—the world’s leading social network as been on a charm offensive across the ad industry. In its presentations to marketers, it has rolled out research to convince top brands that Facebook ads move product—never mind those lousy click-through rates. Recently, Adweek sat down with Facebook’s sales chief Carolyn Everson and her friend and colleague Rob Norman, the newly named chief digital officer at GroupM, to talk about Facebook’s potential, the state of online advertising, the future of mobile, the Digital Content NewFronts, and death by click-through.

Adweek: Facebook has been making a concerted effort to get out its story on the effectiveness of advertising while talking up its TV-like reach. What’s driving that whole conversation?

Everson: Well, one of the things that Rob and other members of our client council have been helping us think through is just how we talk about Facebook in the market. We’ve been confusing at times, and we’ve now started to realize that as we’ve developed products, that they actually start to fit in the marketing funnel.

So the reach frequency discussion is trying to get people to think about Facebook as a reach product, like TV, and how would you think about the measurement around that, and our offers product, which is arguably driving actual point of purchase, and sort of everything in between. So it’s been a concerted effort to actually start speaking more of the marketer’s language, as opposed to product-centric selling. Or another way of putting it is, make sure whatever we’re doing is actually providing a solution to Rob and his clients, as opposed to me telling him about the latest Facebook product.

Norman: And you’re not alone. And because, you know, Neal Mohan [vp, product] at Google has been talking a lot about measures and expectations of Google’s display in video ad products that are not about clicks. So what we’ve got now for the first time, I think, is two of the real monoliths of our business in the digital space talking about non-click metrics and non-last click attribution efforts as well, which has always previously been the property of those people that didn’t have the grip on the throat of those particular metrics.

I think the rest of the industry, for sure, is hoping that if Google and Facebook are out there making a case for it’s not just about clicks, then they’re all thinking, ‘please, God, maybe that attitude will trickle down through the rest of the ecosystem as well.’

Everson: It’s a really important thing for us as an industry. When digital first came out, we reduced it down to the click. And brand advertising really has never sort of had its day in even the digital space, let alone… another friend. Many of those reactions are incredibly lightweight and light-touch. And so what Facebook has to demonstrate is that the aggregation of many, many light-touch interactions overlaid with very fine targeting complemented by sharing in virality has a similar contribution to richer palette media—even though it may not in and of itself be as rich a creative palette.

Norman: And of course, what they do have is an enormously rich palette on Facebook Timeline in that the brand owner can create whatever the brand owner wants. And it’s about how you take those elements of Timeline, work out which bits are most resonant organically for your audience, and then work out how much fuel—ignition if you like, which is paid media in this context—you have to pour on that in order to take the ones that a propensity for sharing in action is obvious from the organic activity and move that out at scale. And, you know, Carolyn has got a long way to go on that. But to suggest that the only resolution for any medium is to ape the visual richness of the most visually rich medium is kind of, I think, slightly naïve.