Cannes Talk: Carolyn Everson On Facebook Exchange, General Motors, New Creative Council

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Carolyn EversonCarolyn Everson is the Facebook exec most directly responsible for positioning the company's ad products to marketers. Today at the Cannes Lions festival, she'll help unveil a new Creative Council (announcement), which will help establish the road map for the company's creative formats.

Everson took a moment yesterday to talk with AdExchanger about Facebook's evolving creative palette, the Facebook Exchange, and General Motors' recent decision to pull its Facebook ad spend.

What's the goal with the Creative Council?

We started the Facebook Client Council a year ago. It has really had an impact both internally and externally. The impact has been to create what I'd call organizational realignment: the product, the engineering teams, the research teams, the marketing teams. Knowing that you have anywhere from 12 to 15 important decision makers sets the pace for what the deliverables need to be and when. The organization has rallied around the requests of the Client Council.

[Director of global creative solutions] Mark D'Arcy, my creative partner, is the head of the Creative Council. One thing the Client Council has requested is, give us a sense of how to build a brand on Facebook. Who's doing good work? What are the qualities of that work? Mark felt it was important to jumpstart the efforts of the creative community to establish a Creative Council.

It's on a spectrum. Some of them have done really fabulous work on Facebook. Others have just dipped their toes in but they're leaders in the creative community. The Creative Council will give input and feedback on the evolution of our ad products. They will be very much a part of the development of Facebook Studio and how we give training.

How do you evaluate the creative palette on Facebook right now?

Sponsored Stories is the most important thing we have done creatively. We have expanded the look and feel of those sponsored stories. Putting it not just in the right hand side but into the newsfeed. Allowing marketers to buy not just desktop but also mobile, which we did just a week and a half ago, that's been well received.

The evolution of our consumer product on mobile – the photos are larger, the videos are larger, the apps are larger – means the stories are more visually pleasing. We've found when marketers view sponsored stories on mobile, they have a much higher click-through rate. Not that click-through rate is the most important thing by any measure, but it's an important indicator of when people are paying attention.

The other thing we've done on the creative side is that when new products are launched, when movie studios have trailers, we made the logout page available. We don't call them takeovers, but from a visual standpoint it's really very pleasing. Almost 40 million people in the U.S. log out every day. Those numbers are quite significant in other countries as well.

And I would mention the brand timeline. Brands have become very excited about how to present their story in the form of timeline. Some of the companies we work with have been in existence for over 100 years, and they're taking a lot of pride in how they roll out their timelines.

The Facebook Marketing Conference in February was very received. Was FMC a key moment for Facebook's ad sales efforts?

I spent almost eight years at Viacom, and I was involved in the TV upfronts. You live and die by the TV upfronts when you're in the broadcast and cable space. There's something very important about organizing your offerings to the market, and making sense of them, and doing an event like that.

On the product side we'd done F8 since Mark started the company. It was natural to do an F8 for marketers. That's essentially what FMC was trying to be. We don't call it an F8 for marketers, but the notion is similar. There's a lot of development. We need to go to the market and show how these things connect, show some great work, and I do think the industry felt good about us investing the time to meet with them and show them what was possible. We did FMC's in London and Tokyo; we tried to make it global in nature as well.

What's been your role in the Facebook Exchange to date?

My role is to give the market perspective on that. I work with the product and engineering teams and give input on whether this is something that would be welcomed by the market.

What I'd say about Facebook Exchange, I don't know if you'd call it a version 1.0, it's version 0.1. We consider it an Alpha internally. We're trying to understand how it's going to work. Some made it seem like the whole thing is tied up and ready to go. It's early stage.

The most obvious use of the Facebook Exchange is to do remarketing. How good can the creative be?  

We need to test the creative. Is it good enough? Are people clicking? We need to see if the offering we have is the right one. If not we'll tweak it.

Will we see Facebook's own data intermingled with external data in the Facebook Exchange?

Not doing that at this time.

Can you comment on General Motors decision to pull its Facebook ad spend last month? 

We do not want anyone spending money on Facebook that doesn't feel they're getting long term value for their business, because we're here for the long run. For me personally and for Facebook, it's important that every marketer feels as though they're getting value.

I think the response to what happened with General Motors – to see how Ford, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota are getting tremendous ROI on our platform. I hope we can deliver that for GM at some point in the future.

Facebook is well-known for letting its users be the guidepost for how its ad formats are defined. How might your native formats evolve to incorporate things like larger formats and rich media? 

In the request for us to have larger formats – in particular rich media or larger formats in general – I do think our efforts on the logout page were a very positive step forward where the industry has a beautiful canvas for creative, be it rich media or photos. And the truth is, if you utilize the mobile product it's actually quite large. And it's arguably in the most valuable real estate from an inventory standpoint, becauase of the mobile usage.

As an industry the tendency is to take old formats and try to place them in the new because that's what we understand the most, but on Facebook we want to be as organic as possible. Mark sets this high bar, which is that all advertising or marketing on Facebook must [behave] as content you get from a friend or family member, which means big disruptive advertising is just not going to have a place on Facebook. Frankly, as a marketer I wouldn't want that. I would want to be part of the experience.

The most valuable thing we can give to marketers is to have an engaged user base of over 900 million people that can act on behalf of the brands, not in some disruptive way.

A cynical person might say that you're task is to make a company that's not very friendly to advertising seem more approachable to powerful agency leaders who really want access. Tough job? 

My role is to make sure that I truly understand the needs of the top 1,500 marketers and agencies, that I'm an advocate for them internally and externally, that I'm very accessible. Frankly, this still is a relationship driven business. It's a big job. Just a little bit lately.

It's gotten tougher lately?

The quiet period is tough, to not be able to speak on your own behalf. The truth is, the job hasn't changed pre- and post-going public. There was maybe an hour and a half of people watching it on TV, and then by 11am everyone was back heads down and working again.

By Zach Rodgers

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