Facebook’s Mark D’Arcy tells us what marketers can do to not make their ads on the social network a menace

Twenty-first century nightmares are made up of your Facebook News Feed, your dad and the comment he just left on a particu larly incriminating photo of you posted by a Friend after a night of abject debauchery You know a media platform is all pervasive when the kids, parents, pet mutts, bosses, exes and distant relatives are all chattering, sharing and dis.covering on their personal News Feeds and often on the go. This leaves marketing of all sizes and budgets with the big question: How do you reach the people who really matter? And with advertising that’s unobtrusive and worthy of their time, attention and engagement.

For a change, Mark D’Arcy, VP, chief creative officer, Facebook Creative Shop, gave us the questions that marketers and creatives ought to ask themselves, preferably every morning, noon and night, and then provided the answers. Pay attention for these just might help create a Facebook ad that doesn’t prompt users to #facepalm.

What ought to be the holy grail of ROA (Return On Attention)?

There was a huge move when people talked about 360 degree marketing to integrate multiple media channels. People would invent things (invented in the world of magical thinking more like it). For instance, “we’re going to do a user generated content (UGC) competition where people are going to submit films. Then we’re going to judge the films and then we’re going to reshoot them, and then we’re going to put it on the website, and put it to vote and then this and that is going to happen.“ Who’s doing this? Who in their right mind is going to have time to go through your marketing process to be part of this experience? The reward on my attention has to be so great for me to do that. So ask yourself what’s the most efficient use of people’s time? 30-second TV commercials are a wonderful expression of this. The art form of writing a commercial, incredibly condensed storytelling, is like poetry when done really well. So if you are going to do a 70-minute documentary about your mayonnaise it better be pretty good because it’s a lot of time. Our eagerness to do things is wonderful but we need to treat people’s time with care. We don’t want to do things that twelve people are going to see, and six of them are related to us. We want to do things that are going to connect and make people say this is a really good return on my attention.

Are you using creativity to unlock technology?

Everyone who has ever written a TV commercial really wants people to watch it in a cinema, on a 90 foot screen in HD with Dolby sound and everyone being quiet. And then they want people to stand up, applaud and go, “That was better than the film!“ We want the canvas to physically reflect the importance of what we think we’ve made. The big leap we have to make is transferring that energy and passion to the canvases where people are and not where they were.

I love magazines. I still buy them. Our behavior around magazines we understand because we’ve been doing it for a hundred years. But that energy and passion of discovery is being done by 100 million people a month on Facebook in India alone through News Feed. Because that’s a newer behavior, from the tactile movement of the News Feed to the way in which that comes alive, we don’t imbue it with the cultural reverence that we have for things like print.

Creativity unlocks the value of technology. People always say “Oh! we can do this. It’s very interesting.“ But it’s not really that interesting until you have an idea that unlocks it and makes the connect with a human being. People collaborate around good ideas, not good intentions. And these intentions are always vague and theoretical. If you have a building mentality around Facebook, you learn much quicker and do better. It’s an easy test: if you are still looking at Facebook and saying well “how many Likes did I get“ you are building around social engagement which is a fun metric, but you are not measuring the impact of what’s actually been driving your business forward.

Who saw Van Damme’s epic split on TV?

Facebook’s Creative Council, that’s made up of chief creative officers from across global ad agencies, was hugely involved with the launch of Premium Video. When I think client leading it, do I know enough about how these different platforms distribute sights, sound and emotion?.’ You should do it because you want the right people to see your work because you believe your work is going to be valuable, useful rewarding, powerful and can change culture. It’s not enough to do a random old thing that 12 people saw and it wins a Lion. That kind of work is irrelevant. You want work that tens of millions of people in India will see and be passionate about.

What makes a great Facebook ad?

The question comes from a world of fine-eyed linear media channels that everybody sees as the same. But there is no defined Facebook. Every single person’s Facebook is unique. Is the best ad for you the same as the best ad for a 65-year-old millionaire in Miami or a German housewife with four children who’s trying to get groceries or a 18 year old in New Zealand? There’s actually a best ad for each one because it’s built around people. It’s not about doing individual ads for people but thinking about them. What’s the single best valuable, useful and relevant thing we can possible connect with 5 or 10 million of those people, irrespective of whether they are on a tablet, a desktop or phone.

And so I’d say the first hallmark of a great Facebook ad is utility. Brands that can manifest their purpose through not talking about doing something good but doing something good. For instance, Target and its Cartwheel app we built to provide users discounts on the go.

The second is remembering that all business is small business; taking large things and making them feel really personal. KLM and telcos do a lot of service through Facebook, their pages are super responsive. Coca-Cola’s Superbowl commercial `America The Beautiful’ celebrated the mosaic of American life. By representing that commercial to different ethnic and cultural groups and celebrating them more deeply through extra content and footage, you are introducing the brand at eyelevel. TV does a wonderful job of talking to a lot of people simultaneously but if I can introduce something that manifests service and thoughtfulness? That is no different from what we’ve done for decades in copy: splitting advertising for magazines. The ability to do that on vast scale with almost an infinite number of variables, is not just a great technological opportunity but a creative opportunity.

And finally great ads are about people building things that go into the real world. The best example still, is the Studio Award winning `Small Business Saturday’. Where you’re building things that aren’t just about marketing and seeing a story but something that creates a real world effect. It happened in a not-for-profit sense with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

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