Facebook has no problem selling ads and encouraging marketers to launch campaigns on its platform, as consistently demonstrated by its financial results. However, the quality of campaigns varies widely. Facebook says it wants to help marketers and brands be more creative and increase the impact of their work by collaborating with a growing team of specialists who work at a special division within the company that's dedicated to this purpose, called Facebook Creative Shop.
Facebook knows marketers are often confident and competitive, and they don't always welcome outside ideas. They are some of the most creative minds in media today, but Facebook says it is bringing resources and strategies to the table that brands or agencies don't already have.
The company's team of 130 employees spread around 30 global locations wants to make its skills and specific insights available to marketers without coming off like a bunch of know-it-alls. It isn't an easy sell, and some marketers may wonder why they need Facebook's input at all. Facebook is a media and communications company, after all; marketing agencies are the true "creative shops."
"The world of marketing, the world of communication … the world of advertising, is going through a fundamental shift that's far bigger than Facebook or Instagram," says Mark D'Arcy, Facebook's chief creative officer, who spoke last week during a press event at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. "It's something far bigger than that. What we're trying to do is use creativity so we can put our platforms, and put the way in which we build things for people, in the best possible context for that space."
Facebook embodies morphing media landscape
D'Arcy has led the Creative Shop at Facebook since its inception four years ago, and the team has worked on thousands of campaigns, but he says a lot changed during his time at Facebook.
"We're so used to incrementality in technology or incrementality in human behavior when it comes to marketing, communication and advertising, that the fundamental shift that's going on is so profound it can kind of miss us sometimes," he says.
"We have the ability to connect in real time with the people that we care most about in the world and we now take it for granted," D'Arcy says. "It's a transformational shift."
This massive change impacts marketers because the entire conceit of advertising is to advert attention, according to D'Arcy. "It's right there in the name," he says.
The world of media has changed from one of finite choice — a handful of TV channels and no remote control, for example — to infinite choice. "So we live in a world where everything simultaneously competes with everything, and we see this in our lives every day," D'Arcy says.
This infinite landscape surfaces in real time in every Facebook user's News Feed, which is each completely unique to that user, according to D'Arcy.
Facebook's Creative Shop works with agencies and brands to highlight the differences between Facebook users, their potential customers, and craft campaigns that help those brands play a less intrusive role in users' always-connected worlds. The company doesn't charge for its consulting services but brands and agencies buy ads, of course, and sometimes at massive scale.
Facebook Creative Shop for SMBs
Facebook's Creative Shop offers a variety of programs designed to leverage the best tools and frameworks for specific campaigns. For example, programs exist for publishers and direct-response advertisers that want to use Facebook more effectively. The team also launched three new programs for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) during the past six months, and they include a library of creative case studies; tips for crafting good headlines, choosing the best images or shooting video; and customizable story packs that can be used to quickly build campaigns.
More than two million advertisers use Facebook, so the Creative Shop sees a huge opportunity to work with the marketers and brands that buy Facebook ads.
"We think a lot about how we can influence great creativity, how we can delight people that use our platforms and how that can lead to great measurements and results for our marketers," says Katie Riccio Puris, head of global operations, Facebook Creative Shop.
A global creative council, which includes some of the most prominent chief creative officers in the world, meets multiple times a year to collaborate on client opportunities while matching agency creatives with Creative Shop members. The cross-functional teams work together for weeks at a time, according to Puris, who expects her group to deliver more than 1,000 campaigns in 2015.
Creating creativity on Facebook in emerging markets
Facebook also recently launched a program to help marketers scale in emerging markets and meet the specific needs of individuals in those countries. The creative accelerator program aims to study the way different people use Facebook's products and services depending where they live, who they communicate with, the devices they use and the level of access they have to the network, according to Melissa Oppenheim, a business manager with Facebook's Creative Shop.
Oppenheim says Facebook is already seeing demand to scale the program further after just two weeks. Many brands come to Facebook in these emerging markets with a desire to spend, but don't know how, according to Oppenheim.
If marketers embrace the transformational shift in communications and understand the individuals they're trying to reach, D'Arcy says Facebook can help them deliver real value.
"The noble goal is to have the most relevant, useful, beautiful, effective piece of communication from a brand, to that person, at that time anywhere in the world," he says. "That's the goal because then advertising … goes from being a tax, a burden, a cost of engaging on platforms, and it becomes valuable."
Marketers need to realize that the right to disrupt has become an opportunity to connect, D'Arcy says.
"We should never approach these things as the right to be in someone's News Feed because we're rich and powerful," Darcy says. "We have the opportunity to connect and we need to respect that person's time."