Why Google and Facebook are angling for a slice of the brand advertising pie

Budweiser: Facebook Creative Shop worked with Vice on campaign
Budweiser: Facebook Creative Shop worked with Vice on campaign

It's the received wisdom in the world of media vendors, agencies and brand-side marketers that Facebook and Google's platforms are just not suited to brand advertising, says Andy Pemberton, co-founder and director, further.

The argument goes that you can build brands using those channels, but it’s difficult. TV is where brands do their big brand advertising. That’s where they "broadcast" their values to large audiences in unique and memorable ways, become famous and add the most value to their brand story.  End of.

An audience’s need for interaction is something digital does best. It might be all the advantage it needs.

But this is advertising and that kind of received wisdom is about to be overturned.

Taking creativity in-house

Those arch disrupters, Google and Facebook have announced they are expanding their in-house creative teams, The Zoo and The Creative Shop respectively. They want to grab some of the $400bn global ad spend currently going to traditional media such as TV.

To get a slice of this brand advertising pie, Facebook and Google have adopted a new strategy: they are going to make content for brands like yours. Yes, friends, these two companies that got rich sourcing other people’s content, are now, like so many others across the advertising, marketing and PR worlds, going to start creating it too.

To that end, Facebook’s Creative Shop recently designed a campaign for Budweiser to promote the beer brand’s sponsorship of the Made in America music festival. It commissioned Vice Media to produce videos about artists at the festival, and targeted each advert at a particular set of Facebook users to maximise their impact.

Is this the beginning of the end of the standalone creative agency?

Google has been at pains to point out that whatever it may look like, it is not trying to go straight to brands and disintermediate -  cut out - creative agencies. The goal of The Zoo is to explain how creative works on Google, John Militello, an executive creative director at Google, told the FT last month.  The in-house agency’s role is "to inspire, educate and collaborate" with big brands and agencies," he said.

Facebook and Google have historically built their businesses on direct response advertising where customers are driven directly to a product page and presented with an option to buy something. Trouble is, insiders believe, users like you and me are wising up to their value to these companies and will soon start charging for their data, which Facebook and Google currently get for free, thus putting the brakes on  Facebook and Google’s expansion.

At the same time, societies are becoming ever more wary of how these companies use the data they’ve collected gratis.

The right to be forgotten

Europe’s top court recently required Google to remove links to a 16-year-old newspaper article about a Spanish man's bankruptcy. The search engine has since received tens of thousands of requests to do the same sort of thing.

And this month, the EU ruled that US companies Facebook and Google must meet Europe's data protection rules, a first step in a move to tighten privacy laws across the continent - an issue that has heated up following revelations of US. spying in Europe.

All this has served as an incentive for Google and Facebook to move into brand advertising. It could be very good news for brands based on the massive penetration of these two businesses, thus offering potential reach that many brands can only dream of.

Ultimately, it will be the audiences who ultimately decide where those brand advertising dollars go.

Google and Facebook have disrupted the business model and grown at a simply astonishing rate. Many brands hope that by linking up with these giants, some of the magic dust will rub off on them too and make them cool, sexy and sought-after.

Many clients today are even looking to buy in technology in a bid to add that bit of extra creative sparkle through technological means. Who’s to say they are wrong in this age of change? Creative agencies must be aware of these potential threats and either adapt or face a less certain future.

Ultimately, it will be the audiences who ultimately decide where those brand advertising dollars go. Defenders of traditional media point to the vast audiences TV delivers – 111m watched the US Superbowl this year. But digital advocates have an ace up their sleeve. They know the days of audiences consuming media passively are long gone; they expect to interact with the culture, entertainment and advertising messages that they consume.

"People don’t want to just sit back and watch an ad; they want something useful from a brand," says Militello. An audience’s need for interaction is something digital does best. It might be all the advantage it needs.


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