Facebook now ‘equal’ to traditional ad platforms

Facebook says big brands now consider it “a lot more seriously” as a major advertising platform, a claim that comes amid fresh criticism that its importance in the marketing mix is being “distorted”.

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Facebook UK sales director Stephen Haines says marketers now treat the social network as an “equal” to more traditional forms of advertising, a trend likely to continue next year.

“We are now at the table right at the start of campaigns, with the client, media agency and creative agency, before the creative has even been decided on. This wasn’t happening two years ago; we were at the back of the [line] then. But now we’re at the front with TV,” he adds.

Haines says a combination of improving its product offering – including data insights for advertisers and page owners – has led to marketers placing more of a focus on Facebook in recent months.

Brands including British Airways, with the roll-out of its ‘To Fly. To Serve’ strategy and John Lewis, for its Christmas ad, have chosen to launch their campaigns on Facebook first.

Frank van der Post, British Airways’ managing director of brand and customer service, says: “Facebook gave us the forum to interact directly with our customers and for a real conversation to take place about the brand. This wouldn’t have been possible had we ignored the power of social media and only followed the traditional approach to advertising.”

A report by ISBA and Havas Media shows that almost eight out of ten (78% ) brands see social media as an important long-term investment, with 72% feeling their chief executive now understands the importance of the platform.

Tess Alps, chief executive of commercial TV marketing body Thinkbox, says that although more money is being invested in social media, the level of attention it receives presents a “distorted image of its overall importance”.

She adds: “Some more money is going to Facebook and social in general, but it is new, gets a lot of press, maybe a distorted image of its overall importance, and there is an element of experimentation.

“Every piece of robust research I’ve seen would suggest that online advertising is of course effective at a certain level but its effectiveness is massively increased when combined with TV.”

A report last month by TNS found that six out of ten Britons (61%) do not want to engage with brands through social media.

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