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Facebook is trying to get smarter with its ad agency relations by aggressively plugging a consumer research program called "Facebook IQ."
The initiative seeks to give brands and agencies a window on consumer behavior by merging Facebook data with third-party research. While the program is several months old, Facebook execs have started giving it more attention by taking the insights on the road. The tour, called "Facebook IQ Live," has included recent stops in New York City and Chicago. Los Angeles could be next, followed by stops in international markets, according to Facebook executives.
The idea is to personally introduce mid-level agency staffers to the data, which includes insights on matters like when new mothers are on Facebook the most or how varied demographic groups shop differently online.
"Anybody can go out and commission extensive third party-research," but it's the integration of that data with Facebook data "that gives us what we think is unique insight on why people do what they do," Erin Hunter Sills, Facebook's director-consumer insights, said in an interview at the Chicago event, which was held in June. "And if we are able to tell marketers more about what consumers are doing, then they'll be better in using our platform for advertising."
This is your brain on Facebook
Facebook IQ uses input from researchers, trend spotters, sociologists, anthropologists and scientists who combine Facebook data with other research to "help marketers understand people across generations, geographies, devices and time," according to the program's website.
Recently, Facebook IQ commissioned San Francisco-based neuromarketing agency SalesBrain to study how people's brains process information presented on a smartphone versus TV. The findings revealed that "people were more attentive and tended to feel more positively toward information presented on a smartphone," according to the white paper, which noted that "people's brains tended to be more distracted when processing information on a TV."
Such findings, of course, are positive for Facebook, which has a vested interest in marketers buying more mobile ads. But Ms. Hunter Sills -- who works in Facebook's Marketing Science division -- stressed that "we want to ensure that we stay quite objective in the work that we are doing and we think the research integrity is pretty important."
Facebook is not aiming to compete with pure-play market research companies. Rather, the social network is using the data in an attempt to educate -- and impress -- marketers and agencies in hopes that they will use the insights early in their campaign planning process. Michelle Klein, a former Diageo marketer who joined Facebook last year, said "I felt that the biggest gift we could give back to advertisers and agency partners was the gift of insights." Ms. Klein was originally hired as head of global agency marketing, but in December was promoted to Facebook's head of marketing for North America.
Repairing the rift with agencies
Facebook targeted mid-level staffers because "they are the next generation of leadership, and they are the ones making the big bold decisions for brands," said Ms. Klein. She helped create Facebook IQ Live along with Katherine Shappley, who leads Facebook's U.S. agency relationships, and Patrick Harris, who leads global agency relationships.
Facebook has not always had the best relationship with agencies, a point that executives readily concede. The perception was that Facebook was "difficult to work with" and agencies felt that "it's like a dark art to getting stuff done on our platforms, and as soon as they learn how to use our platform, we change it," Ms. Klein said.
In an attempt to repair the rift, Facebook in recent years has formed agency teams in the U.S. and across the globe. Prior to 2011, Facebook did not provide a single point of contact for agencies, but the company now has "several hundred" people now focused on agencies, according to a spokesman.
Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i, credited Facebook for making "tremendous strides in improving its agency relations." She said the company had to "find their way to speak marketer language while also being true to the benefits and metrics of their platforms."
The Chicago event drew more than 200 people representing agencies from all the major holding companies. The agencies were given the option to bring clients. In attendance were people from Midwestern-based marketers such as MillerCoors, McDonald's, Target and Kimberly-Clark, according to a guest list provided by Facebook. The three-hour event was held in a sprawling space in a building overlooking Lake Michigan, and was followed by a cocktail hour.
Targeting everyday moments
Throughout the event, Facebook execs touted Facebook IQ research about "moments that matter," which is designed to underline how people share everyday moments on Facebook and Instagram.
For instance, new parents are most active on Facebook via mobile devices from 4 a.m. and peaking at 7 a.m., according to the research, which notes that "with a baby in their arms and a phone in their hands, mobile is new parents' connection to the wider world and a medium they can readily consume." During her opening presentation at the Chicago event, Ms. Hunter Sills told agencies and marketers that "Feeding time is Facebook time."
Attendees were ushered through several stations that were designed to bring the research to life. One station was constructed to look like a home. From there, Jonathan Murtaugh -- who heads Facebook's practice that works with entertainment marketers -- touted research suggesting that as Americans look for new TV shows to watch, half of the discovery occurs online, not on TV.
Another station was made to look like a retail store. That is where Facebook's Erik Hawkins -- who oversees U.S. sales for technology, telecommunications, retail, and government industries -- discussed research describing how people shop online. African-Americans, for instance, are more likely to confine shopping activity to mobile devices, rather than using desktops, he said.
"The more you cut the audience and look at the segments … the more accurately you can market to that group," he said. Then came the sales pitch: Facebook, he told the agencies and marketers, "is very interested in partnering with all of you to take a look at the segments that you are most interested in, so that we can help you target them and talk to them more effectively."