Facebook top exec says a book has influenced the tech giant’s take on advertising – here’s what it is

Every era in the digital century is fleeting.

For instance, just 10 years ago, Apple’s first iPhone was considered revolutionary and shook people’s perception of smartphones. Today however, it has become a norm to have our entire lives – even our wallets – stored on a single smartphone.

A study by consultancy firm Ernst & Young found that Singapore consumers spend an average of 12hr 42 min daily on digital devices. Out of this, a total of 3 hr 12min is spent on mobile phones – and you can expect that number to continue growing until smartphones become obsolete.

A total of 95 per cent of the study’s respondents said that they use a smartphone, and almost 80 per cent of these people would check their smartphones right after waking up in the morning or just before going to bed.

For the advertising and marketing industry, this means huge shifts in the way audiences can be reached and influenced. It is not enough to simply replicate a TV campaign for the online space anymore.

Facebook, which also runs Instagram, has played a rather significant role in the evolution of online ads over the past decade. And as the tech giant navigates and tries to define the online ad world, its global client partnerships unit has in recent years been used as a key driver of marketing science in the organisation.

Will Platt-Higgins, vice president of global client partnerships, told Business Insider while on a recent trip to Singapore that reliance on smartphones has resulted in the emergence of completely new campaign types in the world of advertising.

During our meeting, the New York-based executive offered some insight into the unit’s driving philosophies, explaining the way the tech giant has tackled marketing and advertising.

Here’s what we learned:

1) A book from Australia influenced Facebook’s take on marketing

When we spoke at Facebook Singapore’s South Beach Tower office, Platt-Higgins told us that much of the global client partnerships unit’s research has been influenced by a book called “How Brands Grow” by Byron Sharp, director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia.

Essentially, Sharp mooted the idea of increasing brand reach by focusing on two concepts – mental availability and physical availability.

“It’s terribly difficult to target only a brand’s loyal consumers, and get them to buy just one more. And for many of us working in the advertising/marketing world, that has traditionally been the mantra,” Platt-Higgins said.

According to the book, consumers may be brand loyal, but they are also polygamous when it comes to purchasing products.

To put it simply, mental availability is the ability of a brand to consistently reside in consumers’ brains, so that when these consumers are in the shopping mindset, that brand will conveniently be at the top of their minds. Physical availability is the ability of a consumer to buy the product when he/she thinks of it.

Brands can increase their mental availability by forming “distinctive memory structures” in consumers’ minds. That is, creating certain colours, jingles, experiences etc. that allow the brain to easily make a connection from a creative to the brand.

2) Facebook’s investment in marketing science is no joke

The global client partnerships unit has worked with around 25 partners worldwide in the five years since it was created. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, the amount of research done has been massive.

“We invest a lot in marketing science, otherwise known as measurement, to help our customers understand whether the dollars they are investing with us can be attributed to sales outcomes,” Platt-Higgins said.

His team runs a series of 30 to 60 studies with these client partners over the course of one year. The findings are then analysed to determine what the drivers of success are for these brands on Facebook and Instagram.

So far, the unit has found that its campaigns can be credited for driving sales, and on top of that, a large proportion of people who were purchasing were new users as well.

According to Oracle DataCloud’s study of 206 Facebook campaigns in the US between Oct 2015 and Mar 2017, Facebook was found to have driven an increase in household penetration 72% of the time.

Separately, a study by Dunnhumby of 37 FMCG brands in the UK from May 2015 to March 2017 found that Facebook campaigns resulted in an average sales uplift of 3.7% for brands. In the same study, nearly 60% of sales were attributed to new buyers.

In Asia, a Facebook-driven campaign by Nestle in the Philippines during the 2016 holiday period gave its all-purpose cream brand a reach of 500,000 new households, a 9% sales value growth, and an 8.8-point increase in ad awareness.

Photo: Facebook

3) The potential of messaging is “massive”

With technology changing so rapidly, the advertising and marketing industry is increasingly focused not just on digital, but mobile spaces.

Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are already using artificial intelligence (AI) technology extensively to serve clients and consumers better.

Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads (DPA), for example, uses AI to serve the right ads and products to the right consumers.

“Our vision is that the ads within newsfeed should have as much value to you as the rest of the stories – it is a lofty goal, but that is our goal,” he told us.

And while he thinks we are just five to seven years away from virtual reality and augmented reality becoming mainstream, he also says that one the most exciting spaces to watch out for currently is messaging.

Calling its potential “absolutely massive”, he says messaging spaces like Facebook’s Messenger now allow consumers to reach brands directly, and will revolutionise customer relationship management as we know it.

In July this year, the company started allowing advertisers to buy ads in the Messenger app. With over 1.2 billion users, the potential reach of any advertising campaign on Messenger is huge and very possibly global as well.

With a NewsFeed that is being crowded out, it is only natural that Facebook is putting its resources into developing advertising for its chat app. Among the changes to expect, a separate idea of creating chatbots for brands does not seem to have gotten very far, but we wouldn’t be surprised if there are already plans to introduce it in a bigger way in the near future.