Q&A: Mark D’Arcy, Facebook director of global creative solutions

Mark D’Arcy, Facebook director of global creative solutions on why brands haven’t had a real conversation with customers in a 100 years, how too many marketers are chasing awards and why marketing department are becoming more like TV production units. 


Marketing Week (MW): What changes in marketing and advertising are exciting you at the moment?

Mark D’Arcy (MD’A): The big shift for me in marketing is that we’re going from marketing at people to marketing for people.

When Facebook talks about campaigns that are really integrated it’s not about integrating different media, it’s about integrating with culture. The ideas that transfer ownership from being a brand’s idea to being one that permeates culture where people hold on to them and want to carry them forward.

The reward on engagement when people really connect with your concept usually comes from quite lightweight ideas. There’s a different cadence and rhythm to the creativity and how were going to engage people.

Our entire industry structure is built around the ‘spike campaign’ of things. We’ve got 100 years of industry programming and structuring around building a ’thing’. The example I use is it’s like a stand-up comic who refines an act for nine months and develops 90 minutes of perfection. That’s a methodology and it’s a brilliant one. It’s not going away and it’s really important to have that for many things, but on top of that we’ve got a different beat which is the idea that you’re on every day at 11pm.

MW: How is Facebook driving that shift?

MD’A: The most fascinating thing since joining Facebook two years ago[is to witness] the development and creative process [in action] . It’s one of iteration and improvement, test and learn. It’s so counter intuitive to everything I learned in advertising but it’s much faster. It’s a circular process and you listen and constantly test, iterate, improve and it never ends, as opposed to coming up with something perfect and launching it.

It’s like in journalism; you don’t start with an 8 week series feature idea. You write a story and if it gets traction and you see it’s being picked up and then it becomes a bigger thing because people told you it was not because you decreed it. It’s about being guided by the audience.

These kind of campaigns move and flow and change in culture – they allow culture to move them and that’s a very different way of running a piece of work.

MW: Is it something brands seem to be adopting or are many not thinking like this yet?

MD’A: Brands are starting to and when they embrace it and the world we’re living in, it’s a really liberating thing. It’s a test of whether you know your brand. If you’re nervous in this world, if it freaks you out [you can’t do it]. If you know who you are and what your purpose is you can really engage on this platform [Facebook] because when people talk to you, you can actually talk back.

I work with a lot of the world’s biggest brands and it’s not their fault [they struggle] but they haven’t had a direct conversation with a person for 100 years – they’ve been communicating through mass media and mass distribution. If you’re a major chocolate bar, how do you talk to a person? You haven’t ever had a regular conversation with a person on a daily basis so brands have to relearn those skills. We’re in the early days but brands that are confident about their place in the world are going to be much more successful than brands that only create an ad campaign three times a year.

MW: How do you think the marketing team and structure will change in the future to adapt to these shifts? What are the necessary skills for marketers?

MD’A: I get asked this by a huge number of clients all over the world. In a lot of marketing departments you have them working like a TV production unit, working to a media schedule. The structure is bound by the legacy of what it has always done rather than what it could be doing. I think one of the biggest shifts is going to be timing – to have creativity and marketing at the speed of culture there’s going to have to be much more flexibility and fluidity about where assets and ideas are picked up on and moved.

Right now we have a far more structured approach but we’ll need to be able to have the resources to back ideas that really take off. Every year things will come out of nowhere – good and bad – that you need to deal with, respond to and accelerate. That ability to really amplify things that have caught on will be a really useful thing. Right now often we’re a bit locked in and everything is already invested but I’m seeing a lot more marketers make sure they don’t get put in that situation.

MW: Your panel debate in Cannes talked about achieving scale with creative advertising campaigns – do too many brands and agencies chase awards rather than trying to reach people?

MD’A: It’s no good doing the work if it only gets seen by 12 judges in a room. It’s irresponsible to craft beautiful things and only engage a small number of people – we need to make sure we build scale on whatever platform a marketer is using. I don’t want the industry to become a hobby – it’s a large-scale global business.

Lots of marketers and agencies chase awards. Great work should win awards and should be celebrated, but you don’t want the industry to be a Venn diagram and have the things people see on a large scale be completely different to the great work that wins awards. You want it to be the same. Beautiful, elegant, clever, witty work needs to be on a mass scale so the work that touches the world is also the work that’s celebrated.

When you get the joy of things reaching out and touching the world that’s the great thing about advertising. We need to remind ourselves about that. The numbers have to be relevant to the business objective you’re going for. If the business objective is X and you only reach 17 people, who cares? You’ve failed. We have to have the tension of the craft and the beauty of ideas to the scale and the business results – that’s what we’re doing it for.



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