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We encourage businesses to think mobile: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook

As Facebook refines its offer further, one of the outcomes is the creation of communities and how these can help brands in better connecting with people and causes that matter to them. In Facebook’s advice to marketers, mobile and video also continue to be important pillars that brands can leverage for deeper connections.

In this conversation with Digital Market Asia, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook, COO, elaborates further on these points, gives a perspective on the Glass Lions category, the issues related to transparency and the role that high-growth markets play in shaping the Facebook proposition. Excerpts:

Facebook’s proposition was built on connecting people. Does the company’s shift to community change how businesses should use Facebook?
People have always used Facebook to connect with one another. Increasingly, we’re seeing them use Facebook to build and connect to communities they care about. The same is true for brands. In today’s mobile world, marketers can connect with more people that matter.

One of the ways we’re seeing brands build community on Facebook is through mobile video. Video is exploding on Facebook and the best marketers understand that people watch video differently in mobile feed. They’re tailoring their creative for the mobile experience, creating attention-grabbing videos that tell a story in the first few seconds. Kleenex is a great example. Over an 11-month period, Kleenex created a community around the moments that matter by releasing 29 mobile video ads showing moments when Kleenex was needed – people thanking teachers, caring for the homeless and adopting pets. The campaign drove an increase in ad recall and purchase intent.

Do you think there are enough mobile options for brands to create ads and connect with the right people to ultimately grow their business?
Our teams are encouraging businesses of all sizes to not just focus on being on mobile, but to become a company that thinks of mobile. Five years ago, Facebook made the shift to mobile, and since then there are more than 2x, nearly 3x, the amount of people with smartphones. Today, people have higher expectations because of mobile and are moving faster than most businesses. Mobility continues to connect the world and equally create more creative spaces for people and brands to tell their stories.

We’re constantly working with our partners so we can build experiences that are good for our community and good for business. In the past year alone, our teams at Facebook and Instagram have developed new creative opportunities for brands. We frequently bring the engineering teams to listen to feedback directly from the creative community. Take the Creative Hub for example, which allows brands and agencies to build campaigns together. Or Canvas, a storytelling ads format, that was built based on direct feedback from the creative community. We value the feedback we get from our partners and it helps us build better products.

Three years ago, you inspired the creation of the Cannes Glass Lion. We continue to see more conversation regarding gender related issues. Do you think we are seeing enough change in advertising? What are some ways to create more action?
In a visual world, ads are a powerful medium. Instead of portraying women and girls realistically, many ads reinforce stereotypes and biases. Surveys suggest 76 per cent of women believe advertisers don’t understand them, and 71 per cent of women said brands should use ads to promote positive messages to women and girls. All of us in the advertising industry can change this story by creating ads that people talk about for the right reasons.

At Cannes Lions, the Glass Lion celebrates the ads that explicitly address gender inequality. A great example is Microsoft’s ‘See What’s Next’ campaign – one of this year’s winners – which encourages girls to pursue tech and science. Microsoft brand love increased by 19 per cent among those who saw campaign. Ads like these are doing more than marketing a brand – they’re shifting our culture. It’s important to celebrate the brands making this commitment, which is exactly what the Glass Lion is all about.

India, one of your largest markets, is mobile and a fast-growing country on Facebook. How has the way people use Facebook in India inspired any changes to the platform?
Creativity is universal and great stories can come from anywhere, no matter the device or connection. The way people use Facebook in India and other high-growth markets have definitely influenced product development at Facebook. We’ve created low-bandwidth solutions for marketers including Slideshow, which is a format that allows marketers to stitch together still images into a lightweight video ad. Not only has Slideshow been successful in the markets it was designed for, it’s been embraced by small businesses globally – regardless of connection – because it’s such a simple way to tap into the power of mobile video marketing.

There is increased pressure on all digital platforms for greater transparency and Facebook is involved in many conversations around transparency and brand safety. What does this mean for Facebook?
There’s no place on Facebook for hate speech or content that promotes violence or terrorism. We work hard to keep Facebook free of any of this content – and when it’s reported we take it down immediately. Facebook is a safe place for brands and we give advertisers control over where their ads appear. For example, brands can opt-out of Instant Articles, Audience Network and in-stream ads on Facebook. We recently added more ways for brands to block categories like political content or gambling. We’re committed to making Facebook a safe environment for everyone and we’ll continue to improve and expand our tools to give brands even more flexibility.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.
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