Facebook has made so many embellishments to its ad monetization machine in the past year that communicating it all to clients has become a big chore. This week in Cannes, the company participated in a "Creativity at Scale" panel and convened its 18-member Client Council to discuss its embrace of hashtags, its recent decision to simplify ads, and other aspects of its ad strategy.
It later updated the press on sales strategy and ad products. Among the revelations there: Facebook's Custom Audiences database matching program has become a key driver of ad demand.
Much has changed in the two years since Facebook set up its Client Council. For one, it seems to have embraced a more inclusive definition of what it means to sell "direct."
"The nomenclature of direct sales versus self-serve is a false delineation," VP of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson said. "Even for the marketers that are moving more toward programmatic buying, more toward self-serve … that has not changed the role of our sales and marketing organization."
In other words, Facebook wants to support whatever pipes its ad customers prefer to use, be it high-touch deals, managed services, or a license fee paid to one of the 250 partners in its Preferred Marketing Developer program. Director of Engineering Andrew Bosworth ("Boz") said the window an advertiser uses to buy media on Facebook comes down to preference, and often the channel doesn't correlate with sophistication or size.
All of this is something of a shift from the days when Facebook would use its time in Cannes to talk up run-of-site homepage sponsorships and splashy Logout Ads. These days the message is more oriented to Facebook's data-enhanced products, such as Partner Categories, Facebook Exchange, offline conversion tracking, and especially its Custom Audiences customer-matching program.
"As folks like Acxiom and Epsilon and Datalogix go out and start to work more with the big digital players, it is becoming front and center for our clients and agencies," said VP of Global Partnerships Blake Chandlee.
Facebook has been able to raise the stakes in the CRM matching game by virtue of its persistent log-in, which results in accurate audience match of up to 90%, says Chandlee. By contrast, he estimates the accuracy of cookie-based matching at around 30%.
Mobile is an even greater strength in this area, since the technology for IDing users on handheld devices still heavily lags the web.
Yet Facebook's CRM trump card has created the need for the company to be proactive on privacy. And so it has insisted that its agreements with large customer data companies reflect heightened privacy sensitivity.
"When we do agreements with the big guys, the agreements include changing the terms with the big guys so they're much more friendly to the users," Bosworth said.
Facebook's way of talking about itself here in Cannes is, in some ways, a great example of the schism between creative and tech that has arisen at this annual festival. On the stage, creative agencies discuss experiences and inspiration. Meanwhile, in hotel meeting rooms, the data gloves come off.
This came through when Chandlee referenced Facebook's still-expanding PMD program.
"As the world moves towards operational efficiencies," he said, "PMDs want to provide some of this stuff in a way that the traditional agency I.O. business doesn't do, around optimization and everything else."