Following the audience: big brands collaborating with Facebook

Every day, around two million Kiwis log onto Facebook to scroll down their newsfeeds to see what is happening in their lives. And according to Stephen Scheeler, the company’s head of New Zealand, these aren’t sporadic single visits because the average user peruses the site around 15 times in a single day.

“For those two million Kiwis on Facebook, about 12 percent of their media consumption is Facebook,” says Scheeler.  “Remember, eight years ago it was zero. So this has been a massive shift.”

The rapid migration of audiences into the digital realm is by no means surprising, but such statistics are increasingly serving as strong impetus for brands to shift their commercial messaging to where the eyes are. 

And while this is obviously good news for Facebook, Scheeler cautions that brands need to understand why people are logging into Facebook, if they want to reach communities effectively.

“[Facebook subscribers] aren’t not going back to [Facebook] see a commercial or an ad. They’re going back to see content that means something to them … “Facebook is a platform for discovery. You discover what goes on in your world, your friends, your family.”

He argues that this means that the approach advertisers employ on Facebook needs to differ markedly from that which is used in conventional advertising. 

“You want to be where your customers are, but you need to be there in a way that’s not shouting at them. And you need to be there in a way that’s not making one TVC and showing to everybody. And those are challenges for advertisers … everybody needs to change how think and how we’ve done advertising for the last 50 years.”

And given the creativity that’s starting to spill over onto Facebook, it appears that brands are heeding these recommendations and using the platform as more than just soapbox from which products can be pandered.

An example of this creativity can be found in Sky’s giveaway campaign, which has been running over the last few weeks.          

On 20 October, the broadcaster posted a message on Facebook saying, ‘Boy, that escalated quickly – the prize is up to 1,235 days, which is just over three years of free Sky,’ referencing how quickly the campaign had gained online traction.

Based on a similar premise as ASB’s Like Loan campaign, Sky’s campaign gives the social media community to determine how big the prize will end up being. For every person that likes, shares or comments on the Sky Facebook page via the competition, the broadcaster adds an additional period of time to the quantity of free Sky that one lucky entrant will win.           

At the time of writing, the prize had already extended to 1,440 days, 11 hours and 31 minutes, a significant jump from the minimum prize of 1,000 days that was initially set.

“We’re keen to expand our Facebook community so we can share all our exciting entertainment news with a larger number of New Zealanders,” says Sky’s head of corporate comms Kirsty Way. “We want to talk to those who are interested in Sky (whether they’re customers or non-customers), so it made sense for the prize to be a whopping number of days of free Sky.”

As is the case with most brands currently active on Facebook, Way says that Sky’s decision to use the social media juggernaut as a platform to launch the competition came down to the numbers.

“Facebook is overwhelmingly the most populated social network in New Zealand … so, statistically, it’s a no-brainer. It’s also a great visual medium for our content, and we love being able to have conversations with fans of our entertainment, being fans ourselves.”

Given that this is such a new stomping ground for brands, Way says that Facebook team often provides creative input for campaigns running on the Sky Facebook page.  However, in this instance, the entire campaign was developed through collaboration between Sky’s online marketers (Kirsty Simpson, Nicola Reade and Tenani French), Us & Co (creative concept, strategy and execution) and OMD (media planning and optimisation).

In addition to Sky, Z Energy has also been relatively active on Facebook in recent weeks. In the lead up to the launch of its Blokhedz collectibles, the energy company ran a teaser campaign that encouraged consumers to guess what was about to be unveiled.

And since the Blokhedz have announced, Z has been using Facebook to maintain hype by asking fans a series of daily questions.

And while the Blokhedz campaign is the most pronounced feature on Z’s page at the moment, it’s by no means the only Facebook campaign the company is running. Last week, Z also launched a pair of quirky video clips, created by Heyday and MBM Media, that feature quirky narrations of customers at the petrol station.    

Z spokesperson Christine Langdon says that the videos are an extension of the ‘Zip thru Z’ positioning, which currently has a variety of executions across TV, radio and online.

“Facebook is a great way for us to communicate with our customers, but more than that it allows us to interact with them – so it’s not just a  one-way thing,” she says.  “We’ve invested a fair bit in our social media channels for that very reason, and it enables us to go where our customers are.  We couldn’t hand-on-heart say that Z is for New Zealand if we weren’t on social media engaging with Kiwis online.”

Langdon says that Z Energy does not have any current plans to air these clips on television, a decision she explains by drawing a distinction between the digital and television channels.

“Watching a digital video is quite different to watching something on TV,” she says.  “Just as artwork for an outdoor billboard shouldn’t just be resized for print or DM, the same applies to digital.”

Langdon wouldn’t be drawn into sharing any statistics on how successful the campaign had been, but she did say that Z is constantly monitoring the impact of campaigns with the help of its research partner.

While Z Energy has opted to keep its cards closer to its chest, ASB and Facebook recently revealed a range of statistics on the success of the well-awarded ‘Like Loan’ campaign.

“We reached 4.7 million with the campaign in three weeks, and 84 percent of all the traffic to the app came from Facebook,” says Scheeler.  “And we know that that there were 89,000 interactions with that audience around the ‘Like Loan’ mechanism.”

ASB’s general manager of marketing Anna Curzon says that 50 percent of ASB’s campaign budget was spent on Facebook paid media for the campaign and she says that this played a major role in the success of the campaign.    

“We know that about 90 percent of people will use different devices and screens as they go through a journey, so we put in a mix of TV and other channels, but if you go back to that key metric [of 84 percent of the traffic], that’s pretty compelling,” she says.

Curzon says “spend through Facebook was 1.7 times more effective than other media channels,” and explains that this was largely because the campaign could be tracked in real time, allowing the bank to make changes when necessary.

“We optimised it throughout the period,” she says. “When we had a look at how well our featured posts were doing we just poured gas on that and shifted our media spend accordingly.”

And while the campaign could be modified at any stage, Curzon says that ASB was cautious when it came to making any drastic changes to the campaign execution.

“With Like Loan, we could’ve kept adding stuff and adding stuff, but I think Debbie Lowe in my team, who ran the campaign from a marketing perspective, was very staunch about saying no and sticking to the core and simplicity of the idea and not allowing us to get too complex with it.”

And Scheeler says that this simplicity was integral to the success of the campaign, but he adds that this isn’t necessarily something that’s easy to achieve. 

“The difficulty is simplicity of the idea,” he says. “With any great media campaign—not just Facebook—you need a simple message. It can’t be too complicated. But the key is finding a message that resonates. So simplicity and resonance together are sometimes hard things to do.”

He explains that when campaigns become too complicated they aren’t as effective at communicating with the audience because the message becomes lost under the clutter of complexity.

But given that the traditional media channels have for so long dominated the advertising landscape, Scheeler says that it still takes a brave client to choose a digital strategy over relying on the safer alternatives that exist in TV or radio.      

“Sometimes the hardest thing is just having the guts to be first, and I think that’s what ASB did.”

That being said, Facebook’s recent international revenue stats provide a strong indication that that the inertia that holds ad spend in the traditional channels is starting to release its grip.

In Q3 2014, Facebook’s total revenue was $3.2 billion, an increase of 59 percent, compared with $2.02 billion in the third quarter of 2013. Revenue from advertising was $2.96 billion, a 64 percent increase from the same quarter last year. Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 66 percent of advertising revenue for the third quarter of 2014, up from approximately 49 percent of advertising revenue in the third quarter of 2013.

And while these results are promising, Facebook believes there’s room for more growth. The release from the company said: “2013 was the first year the average American adult spent more time on digital media than watching TV and that gap has continued to increase.  Today, the average adult in the US spends nearly 25 percent of their media time on mobile, but advertisers spend only approximately 11 percent of their budgets there.”

And as digital—particularly mobile—continues to grow, Facebook, with its weighty list of Kiwi subscribers, will become an increasingly attractive platform for brands.    

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