Facebook strengthens support for UK ad industry

Facebook is boosting its European staff and expanding its Preferred Developer Programme to help agencies and developers create more effective ad campaigns on the social network.

The company has acknowledged that it has previously not communicated changes to its ad platform, including its recently opened API, as effectively as it could have done, and is working to address agency concerns more proactively.

Christian Hernandez, Facebook’s EMEA head of international business development, said that the company was increasing its European platform headcount and will become more involved in developer events and meetings, such as the Facebook Developers Garage.

It’s our fault the community has to come together to tell each other what they learned last week about our roadmap. It means our communications channels aren’t as well developed as they should be,” Hernandez said.”We want to get a lot more involved to help drive the agenda and use such meetings as marketing channels and to explain upcoming changes to developers. We have probably told them in a one-to-one way but we need larger-scale, programmatic ways of doing it.”

Facebook was among leading online platforms including Microsoft and Moneysupermarket that saw declines in the recent IPA online media owner’s survey, in which UK agency staff rate service levels of the leading digital media owners.

Facebook saw a 6.2% decline in approval rating in the overall experience category, compared to spring 2010, and a 7.3% year-on-year decrease.

Agency staff also said it was becoming harder to contact the sales team at the social network, although it was ranked as the best platform for communicating new opportunities.

According to Facebook, more than 1m developers and agencies are actively working on content for its platform, while over 550,000 branded applications are currently live.

Tyler Turnbull, planning director at media agency Publicis Modem, which, along with Mindshare, has just completed the second stage of a Facebook campaign for LG Electronics, said the social network is helping agencies evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies.

However, Turnbull added that Facebook could improve co-operation with agencies by helping them with the technical aspects of launching campaigns on the network.

“Facebook’s platform has evolved so rapidly that it has been hard for agencies to figure out the best way to use it,” he said. “It could improve by having one of its developers come in and show our staff how to do one thing or another on its site.”

Hernandez said part of the problem was the difficulty in making sure Facebook’s internal team grew in proportion to its extraordinary growth. In spring 2007 it had under 20m users – 1m in the UK – compared to 500m just three years later.

Patrick Griffith, strategy director at Work Club, said Facebook’s rules are opaque and its tools aren’t user friendly, but that consumer adoption has been so high that it has outpaced the ad spend. “It hasn’t turned the product into something advertisers can make the best of,” he said.

Facebook makes its own ad rules and isn’t open about the technologies it brings out, Griffith added.

“That means we have to wait to hear about new rules before we can adapt our planning strategies. This makes it difficult to be first to market with new stuff,” he said.”If it was more open, brands could get more involved and perhaps test new tools and help develop them.”

Hernandez said one of the core areas Facebook is focusing on is to be more responsive to questions about how best to implement campaigns, and how it can be less of an impediment to developers.
But other agencies said Facebook was working harder to communicate upcoming changes.

Charlie Mcgee, MD of media agency Carat Digital, said, “We have an excellent relationship with Facebook. I question the accuracy of the IPA survey. I understand why the sentiment [that Facebook isn’t open] has come about; it may be that some of the smaller agencies have trouble getting face time with Facebook.”

James Kirkham, director at creative agency Holler, said agencies should work hand in hand with Facebook.

“Opening up and a closer working environment between Facebook and Holler, for example, can only be a good thing,” he said. “Agency teams need to know all the parameters and potential constraints, but also where and how they can push things.”

News of Facebook’s more concerted agency focus comes a week after new media age revealed Twitter is to open a London sales office as it eyes up the European ad market.

Twitter – which has launched a raft of commercial services over the past year, including a number of ad services and an analytics tool – is understood to have chosen London as its European base as interest from brands and agencies intensifies.

It confirmed it was researching staff and locations in Europe, but wouldn’t specify any location.

This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk

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