Arati Rao
Sep 30, 2010

Is it time for Facebook to come sit at the main table?

This and other questions debated at IAA-India Chapter’s panel discussion “Face to Face with Facebook”

Is it time for Facebook to come sit at the main table?

It’s not that Indian admen and marketers don’t like Facebook; it’s just that they’re not quite sure of the consequences of liking it as yet, seemed the outcome of the International Advertising Association – India Chapter’s panel discussion called ‘Face to Face with Facebook’, jointly organised by Komli Media and Facebook.

The panel comprised Blake Chandlee (vice president & head of Facebook for APAC & emerging markets), Rahul Welde (vice president & head of media across APAC – HUL), Sam Balsara (chairman & managing director – Madison World), Gowthaman Ragothaman (leader, South Asia, Mindshare), and Prashant Mehta (chief operating officer, Komli Media) acted as moderator. 

To the first question posed by Mehta of what kind of things should Facebook allow marketers to do, Balsara said that while Facebook could be the answer to the marketer’s challenge to connect with the consumer, there are two reasons it isn’t a hot medium as yet: “The first is that users don’t want it to be an advertising medium, which is an inherent conflict; and the second is that advertisers like to be in control of everything and Facebook doesn’t fit in with that scheme of things.” He explained his point further, “If there’s a negative story in the newspapers or on TV about a brand, heavens would fall on the agency to take care of the error. On Facebook, you can’t, and the advertiser has to be assured of things like this without taking away from the basic proposition of the social website.”  

Ragothaman was of the view that there was a need to make tools locally relevant to the market. “Things that click in the US will be different from those that click here,” he said. “You need to capitalise on local popular culture.” Chandlee responded, “We feel differently about advertising and that’s why we introduced the concept of engagement ads. We need to find that happy place where users find value and brands can articulate their brand value.” He cited the example of Nestle that received some complaints on its Facebook page and instead of addressing the issue, went on the defensive and deleted the comments. 

Welde said that in this new age, everyone on the brand regardless of age and demographics would have to develop an understanding of social media. “The brand ambassador is no longer a hot superstar; it’s the consumer,” he stated. 

Balsara then said it was time for social media to come sit at the head table. “Digital agencies get only 1-2 percent of the advertising budget,” he said. “Only when it gets taken to the main table will we be able to see it in its totality, versus TV and radio etc.”

On how Facebook and television can work together for the brand, Ragothaman said social media is a marketing channel and not an advertising medium. “It needs to be at the centre of the marketing activity,” he said. Welde argued, “The truth is consumers still like newspapers and housewives still watch soaps on TV. We must stay true to the target audience.” Chandlee revealed, “People often watch television with the computer on their laps. The technology to segregate users according to what they’re watching is just 9-12 months away.” 

On how to develop the expertise and incentives for marketers, Chandlee said they hadn’t quite figured out who to incentivise for – the brand, the media agency, the PR agency or the ad agency. “Brands need to build their strategy around the community, where everyone sits at the table and plans the next 12 months,” he felt. Welde said, “As people start to discover social media is shifting the sales needle, incentives will kick in.” The two positives though were instant feedback and the communication of brand attributes. “In India, it’s still about experimentation and innovation, versus being an established science,” he added. 

Chandlee mentioned the case of Starbucks. “They have 12 million fans and a 12-month conversational calendar for Facebook, that is connected to coffee sales and that is what the CEO reports to Wall Street.” However, there was more to be done, he was quick to add. “Likes and fans are easy metrics, but we do need to be more accountable,” he said. 

Campaign India

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