Meta is making changes to its marketing strategy amid scandals

Since the spring, the social networking company, formerly known as Facebook, has been evaluating where it advertises and how much it spends on it, taking applications from agencies that want to help manage its huge marketing budget.

The so-called media review – the first for Meta, the parent company’s new name for Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger – ended on Tuesday when Spark Foundry chose its new global planning and purchasing partner.

Spark Foundry, owned by French advertising giant Publicis, will “engage in strategic thought leadership, media innovation, planning and investment, cross-channel approaches, tools, technology and operations,” Meta spokeswoman Lisa Stratton said in an email. The global agency, which replaces previous social media partners Dentsu and Mindshare, also recently won business from beauty retailer Clarins and automaker Toyota. The decision does not affect the creative strategy of the Goal.

Meta made the changes after a seven-month review, during which it came under intense public scrutiny due to harmful revelations about its business practices and the impact of its applications on adolescents, fueled by informant Francis Haugen, a former employee.

Despite the fact that the social platform fought scandals, large advertising companies presented proposals for those who will be a particularly high-ranking client. Meta spent nearly $ 3.6 billion on marketing and sales in the last quarter, up 32 percent from a year earlier. The victory in the Meta-account gave the agencies access to the deep pockets of the social networking giant and a significant impact.

The situation underscores Madison Avenue’s interdependence with Meta. Most of the advertising industry either already works with the company, or hopes for it, usually by placing ads on its platforms or by placing ads for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger on other platforms.

Last month, Meta said it earned 97 percent of its revenue, or $ 28.3 billion, from ad space sales in the last quarter. Advertising Week, a recent industry conference, presented panels from Meta, which also sponsored events for the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Meta employees are on the boards of industry trade groups such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the American Advertising Federation.

The advertising industry spawned Facebook and is a “hidden hand behind all the horrific Facebook headlines,” but has remained largely wary of the company, wrote Bob Hoffman, a veteran of the business, in his Ad Contrarian newsletter last month. “While the rest of the world is bored with Facebook, the industry that has the deepest connection to it and has the most to lose is ours. And yet… crickets.

Bob Lyodis, CEO of ANA, said in an email that the group is serious about brand security issues, but that its members “are responsible for their own investment choices to determine the suitability of a particular platform or media tool to build a brand.” ».

The IAB did not respond to a request for comment. The American Association of Advertising Agencies has stated that it will continue to address issues related to ensuring a safe and transparent ecosystem.

But one company, a retailer of Patagonia outerwear and equipment, said it stopped paying paid advertising on Meta platforms last year because of brand security issues.

“Facebook’s internal documents released over the past few weeks make it incredibly clear that they are aware of the irreparable damage caused by their lack of responsibility to their three billion users and the detrimental consequences for society itself,” said Ryan Gellert, Patagonia’s chief executive. said in an email.

Meta, like many other companies, works with creative agencies to help develop and create marketing campaigns, as well as with media agencies to help determine where advertising is headed. It has relationships with almost the entire advertising industry, which consists mainly of six large holding companies – Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP – which control a group of subsidiaries. Meta also works with consulting companies such as Accenture, which have bought agencies and some independent stores in recent years.

On the creative side, Droga5, owned by Accenture, helps Meta create corporate messages and creates videos for the company, timed to coincide with the Olympics. BBDO, owned by Omnicom, conducts marketing campaigns for WhatsApp and the main Facebook application. Johannes Leonardo, who is partly owned by WPP, took over the work on Instagram from Ogilvy this spring. Meta also has an internal team known as Creative X that works on marketing.

Wieden + Kennedy, an independent agency based in Portland, was responsible for the overall Facebook brand and created the company’s commercial for the 2020 Super Bowl. But during a large-scale boycott of the social network last year by advertisers upset by the platform’s hate speech policy, Colin DeCourcy, Wieden + Kennedy’s chief creative officer, said the situation “has sparked a lot of tough talk within the agency.”

Asked by Time magazine if she expected Facebook to become a customer in 2021, she said: “If I were a betting person? I wouldn’t put too many of my dollars in this place. “

A spokeswoman for Wieden + Kennedy said the agency no longer cooperated with Meta and that they divorced in the first half of the year.

As Facebook began spending heavily on marketing in 2014, it entrusted its media budget to Dentsu and Mindshare, a WPP-owned agency. He began a media review in April, working with ID Comms management consulting firm, a kind of matchmaker who also led Hershey’s and T-Mobile reviews this year.

Meta required participating agencies to agree to the restrictive terms of the contract before allowing them to move on to various budget and procurement planning exercises, said two people familiar with the negotiations, who were not allowed to speak publicly. Meta declined to comment on the process.

As Target’s problems grew, employees of some agencies protested against the idea of ​​having the company as a client, people say.

In July, Mindshare excluded itself from the social media review, which was conducted virtually. Last month, Meta ruled out Havas, another advertising giant. Publicis’ Spark Foundry defeated its last rival, Dentsu.

“We have a long legacy of leading brands through transformation, and we look forward to working with Meta on the next evolution of their business,” said Sarah Kramer, CEO of Spark Foundry US.

Mindshare, Dentsu and Havas did not immediately comment. GroupM, which manages Mindshare, declined to comment.

Meta is also battling complaints of ill-treatment of the advertising industry. Ms. Haugen, an informant, testified that the company misled advertisers about its efforts to strengthen its platform from malicious content and tried to block attempts to extract data on political advertising.

A real test of Madison Avenue’s patience with Meta will depend on the company’s popularity among users, said Blake Drosch, an eMarketer analyst, in a recent podcast by the research firm.

“Users who leave Facebook are the only thing that will force advertisers to leave Facebook,” he said.

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