“Mobile Isn't A Thing, It's The Thing,” Says Facebook Creative Shop's Rob Newlan

Kirsty Styles

Rob-Newlan-BW-headhshotEx-Coca Cola man Rob Newlan has assembled a crack team of former entrepreneurs, agency talent and brand creatives to work in some of the region’s cultural capitals for Facebook Creative Shop.

“Creativity is a necessary part of this whole shift into mobile,” Newlan, head of EMEA at the Creative Shop, says. “Ads on Facebook have to be as good as content you get from news organisations and friends. Digital was allowed to be off to the side but now mobile is with us at all points, it hones creativity into digital.”

For everyone ‘doing mobile’, and that really should be everyone, 2013 was a pivotal year, with Facebook no exception. At the start, more Facebook users around the world visited on desktop. But by year end, daily users on mobile outnumbered desktop by around 200m.

UK Users Check in 14 Times a Day

In the UK alone, the company has 25m daily active users, 84 per cent on which are mobile, with the average person checking in 14 times per day. “In many markets, Facebook now represents 25 per cent of time spent on mobile and most of that is in the News Feed,” Newlan said. “This is an opportunity to have a conversation with people who will be there today, tomorrow, in the morning, at lunch time and in the afternoon. And an opportunity to deliver a full-screen advertising experience to our users.”

Like all credible marketers today, Newlan emphasises the need for ads to be ‘authentic’, ‘additive’, whether that’s providing something funny or something useful, and certainly not ‘disruptive’. “Mobile is actually driving advertisers away from immersive digital experiences in favour of content that can be consumed there and then,” he says.

But how then do you make that into a compelling story? Newlan points to a campaign created with Hugo Boss, which demonstrated the ‘atomisation’ of an advert into a series of beautiful images presented to the viewer in sequence over a period of Facebook visits. “Advertising is just storytelling,” he says. “But now it has to be thumb-friendly because that’s the way we navigate the world. Remember: there’s no bad story too short – no good story too long.”

Marks and Spencer made the bold move to debut its 2013 Christmas campaign on social, which included a short teaser to the main event. The Facebook element gathered 20m impressions for the company -  and around 70 per cent of those were on mobile.

Making 'Big' Personal Again

Facebook’s goal is being able to offer ‘personalised marketing at scale’, but, at least for me, it doesn’t feel quite there yet when I'm being served ads for the Cow and Gate Baby Club. “It’s still early days but we have the opportunity to be far more relevant than anyone. There’s no single answer to what’s right for each particular person.” Echoing the sentiment of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in the company's Q4 2013 earnings call, he added: "Mass media made advertising more impersonal – Facebook makes 'big' personal again."

Many brands still ask Newlan ‘what should we be doing in the social space?’, he explains, but he says this is now 'a redundant question'. "People don’t see the demarcation like that." The company is also trying to distance itself from ideas like ‘Facebook metrics’, particularly through its partnerships with consumer data companies like Datalogix, Acxiom, BlueKai and Epsilon. “We were able to see time spent figures and the challenge was proving how these impressions contribute to sales. These partnerships give us a far stronger way of doing that.”

Like many others working across the marketing industry, collaboration, iteration and optimisation are now key strategies for Facebook’s creative success. “We don’t want to be the world’s creative organisation but when the opportunity arises, we want to help create great creativity in the right context, for the right person at the right time."

Campaigns created a year in advance are no longer viable

The company now hosts Publishing Garages, where they get brands and agencies into the office to collaborate around problems. “The purpose is to get deeper insight and improve targeting so you can make sure ads are right time, right people and start advertisers can start to iterate in days across a campaign.” Facebook is also working with other publishers like Vice and relevant third-party content providers to bring them together in the creative conversation.

While Newlan says it’s a bit of a myth that brands have to ‘piggy back on the now’, he explains some agencies and brands have begun creating ‘newsrooms’ with 20-plus people on hand in a team to respond. “You really can’t force fit into the old agency model,” Newlan says. “Creating a campaign a year in advance is no longer viable, especially as real-time marketing is becoming possible." Ads that are displayed on Facebook in time with a TV ad are also a key area to crack, he says.

"We really are shifting our focus to understanding how creative works and that's happening first on mobile," he says. "Mobile isn't a thing, it's the thing."