Great ideas cross platforms – but put mobile first, Facebook marketing exec says

LAS VEGAS – Compared to his youthful colleagues – including his CEO – David Fischer jokes that he’s an “old man” at Facebook Inc.

So he smiled in recognition during his Wednesday appearance at Adobe Summit when interviewer John Mellor, vice president of alliances and marketing strategy with Adobe Systems Inc., recounted a conversation with his four-year-old daughter after a visit to her grandmother’s house.

“I said, ‘tell me about your lunch.’ And she said, ‘I had a bologna sandwich.’ And I said, ‘Did your bologna have a first name?’” Mellor recounted, to chuckles from the audience. “She kind of looked at me, and I said, ‘My bologna had a first name: It’s O-S-C-A-R. My bologna even had a second name: It’s M-A-Y-E-R.’”

Given the laughter that rang through the auditorium, it’s clear most of the audience knew what Mellor was referring to – but his daughter didn’t. And Fischer, who serves as Facebook’s vice president of business and marketing partnerships, said that in his experience Mellor’s situation isn’t unusual – though it hasn’t tempered his belief that an iconic jingle like Oscar Mayer’s could still work in the mobile-first world that Facebook has embraced if applied correctly.

“I sometimes think about Oscar Mayer, or Wendy’s ‘Where’s the Beef?’ … those classic messages, and how you would build those in mobile today,” Fischer said. “I think they could be and will be done incredibly well, but you have to not think of them not as, ‘My creativity happens on the big screen, and when I get into mobile I have to scale back,’ … but as, ‘I want to be as creative as I can… but I gotta think in a mobile-first way.’”

“The notion of a 30-second creative spot that just builds, builds, builds, and then delivers at the very end has to change,” he said. “And by the way, I hate to break it to you, but that has to change for TV too, because you’re not necessarily getting people engaged the whole way there either.”

The next big thing

In fact, Fischer went so far as to call mobile “the next big thing” – fully aware that in many marketers’ eyes, it was the last big thing.

“You’re probably sitting up there going, ‘mobile was the last big thing – like, the world has gone mobile, we get it,’” he said. “But… I don’t think that all of us have internalized quite how major a shift that is.”

He noted that Facebook itself was caught off-guard by the mobile revolution after going public in 2012.

“It was a tough period for the company,” he said. “I hope none of you recall it, but some of you may, because we got a lot of criticism, I think deservedly so – we found ourselves behind the curve, and had to really go through a major company transformation to go from behind to mobile-first. And I think it’s really made a big difference.”

To illustrate how serious Fischer’s proclamation was, during the interview he noted that when it comes to virtual reality – another “next big thing” that Facebook has heavily invested in, by purchasing hardware maker Oculus Inc., designing an open-source 3D camera, and adding first-person video support to Facebook Live – he generally advises content creators to take a wait-and-see approach.

“Maybe if you’re in gaming you need a virtual reality strategy today, but for most verticals, it’s a little premature,” he said. “The audience isn’t really that big, it’s expensive to build content… so it might be a little further out.”

The opportunities offered by mobile

Mobile, on the other hand, has already disrupted the marketing industry in unexpected but often exciting ways – if nothing else, simply by giving entrepreneurs easy access to tools and apps that allow anyone to build an effective ad on their phone.

As an example, Fischer shared a Facebook ad from Inspiralized, a three-person operation that manufactures an appliance that turns vegetables into pasta, and managed to put together an eye-catching ad with nothing but a phone.

“It looks nice,” he said. “They didn’t rent a fancy kitchen – they bought a piece of foam board and some paper that looks like it’s marble, and held it up behind them while they filmed with a phone.”

More importantly, the ad increased Inspiralized’s click-through rate by 3.4 times in five days compared to the static display ad they were using before.

Mobile also gives brands the ability to target their ads at incredibly specific audiences. As an example, Fischer cited Coca-Cola’s “America is Beautiful” ad, a diversity-celebrating short created in 2014 for the Superbowl but re-aired this year in light of the anti-immigration sentiment which has recently been sweeping the U.S.

Before running the ad during the Super Bowl, however, Coca Cola ran it on Facebook, tailoring the ad to a variety of audiences, including Muslim women, Hispanic Americans, even surfers, by making it lead with whatever image they thought would be most likely to engage the user who was watching.

Royal Caribbean, meanwhile, took advantage of Facebook’s Canvas ad format to create an interactive, immersive experience that gives users an idea of what it’s like to be on one of the company’s ships.

“One of the challenges a lot of businesses have today is capturing attention,” Fischer said. “This unit actually got an average of over 70 seconds of interaction time, and had a really low cost per engagement – 17 cents.”

Another exemplary example from the hospitality industry that Fischer shared was the Westin hotel chain, which he said built a marketing campaign that adapts to every step of the customer journey, starting with mobile-optimized video and then enticing audiences who had seen the video with a second type of ad focused on converting them into users.

It’s the type of approach Facebook itself needed to learn, Fischer reminded the audience.

“Mobile was an afterthought a few years ago at Facebook,” he said. “It was sort of like, ‘we build for this large-screen environment and then… pare that down.”

Now, Fischer said, mobile is the main screen.

“It’s not the small screen – it’s actually the big screen when you’re holding it up,” he said. “I would really encourage everyone to… put mobile first and recognize that it’s not like, hey, that was the last thing that happened. It is the next thing that’s going to happen too.”

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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