As JWT's newly appointed North American Chief Creative Officer Jeff Benjamin put it, "I have a policy -- if somebody spams my wall, I remove them as a friend." He's talking about Facebook, of course, and his point makes a lot of sense. So why do so many brands spend so much time creating the sort of campaigns that clutter your newsfeed and leave that sort of processed-meat-food-in-a-rectangular-can taste in your mouth?
Ad Age and Creativity's latest trend report explores what it takes for brands to "do good Facebook." We gathered a roundtable of seasoned creatives, including Mr. Benjamin, a former CP&B co-CCO who helped steer notable Facebook campaigns such as Burger King's "Whopper Sacrifice." We were joined by his former Crispin colleague Paul Aaron, now digital executive creative director at Amalgamated; Tool's Jason Zada, EVB co-founder turned director, who created one of the most viral Facebook efforts of last year in "Take This Lollipop"; Pereira & O'Dell Creative Director Jaime Robinson, who worked on the successful Intel-Toshiba "Inside" social film; Team Detroit ECD Scott Lange, who oversaw Ford's "Doug" social-media puppet effort; and Jung Von Matt Limmat's Livio Dainese, creative director on Graubunden Tourism's "Obermutten Goes Global," which earned a tiny Swiss town more Facebook action than the fan pages of Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga.
If you don't know their work, you should. All of them have successfully navigated the social-media platform and created Facebook campaigns that people actually cared about. They discussed what works and what doesn't, and "social skills" you need in order to truly interact with at least some of Facebook's 800 million users.
We also dissected a number of the most-innovative Facebook efforts of the past 12 months, and noted what brands should keep in mind when trying to build a dedicated fan base on the platform.
Here, a few of the lessons unearthed within the report.
Tell a story
One of the characteristics of the best advertising -- no matter what platform -- is that it tells a story.
Pereira & O'Dell told a gripping tale via Facebook and brought users into the creation process with the Intel-Toshiba "Inside" campaign. It engaged Facebook users in an evolving social film, in which their Facebook posts and own videos influenced the plotline -- and helped the film's lead character, played by Emmy Rossum, escape from a room where a mysterious kidnapper has trapped her. The fans became a part of the story's plotline, and they loved the campaign so much they created an online film thanking the brands for the experience.
In the case of Jung Von Matt Limmat's Obermutten effort, the story was built also into the PR strategy. The campaign invited Facebook fans to like the tiny Swiss town. As thanks, the Obermutten townspeople would post their fans' profile pictures on the town's physical community bulletin board and show the fans their posted mugs in album pictures. That set the stage for some interesting plot twists, such as what happens when the number of fans exceeds the real estate of the bulletin board? The photos had to be posted on the walls of local barns, which made for a great PR story.
The campaign earned Obermutten fans from 32 countries and generated about $2.4 million worth of media from a budget of only about about $10,800.
If you can, step into the real world
One smart strategy to give your Facebook campaign legs and sharing value is to extend it into the real world. The Intel/Toshiba campaign invited its fans to real-life events tied to the plotline of the evolving film. Obermutten tacked Facebook followers' pictures onto physical walls.
Another campaign featured in the report, Heinz's "Get Well Soup" out of the agency We Are Social in the U.K., allowed users to send their sick friends personalized cans of soup -- extending the feel-better wishes they'd posted online all the way to their dining-room table.
An effort for Ariel laundry detergent out of Saatchi Stockholm showed off the strength of the cleaner with a robot that shot stains at a line of crisp, bright-white shirts. Facebook fans could control the 'bots online, picking which "flavor" of stain to shoot. The shirts were then dunked into a vat of suds, after which they were dried and delivered in the mail to the culprits who soiled them.
Be social; be human
Perhaps brands' first rule of doing good work on a social-media platform is to learn how to be truly social.
Earlier this year, Pfizer's Chapstick experienced a social-media catastrophe when it did something very uncool. The brand posted a new ad on Facebook that highlighted a model's voluptuous rump as she bent over a couch (she was searching for her lip balm). Consumers deemed it sexist and started posting negative comments on Chapstick's Facebook wall. Chapstick responded by deleting the unfavorable posts. Ironically, the ad's copy read, "Be heard at Facebook.com/Chapstick." That, of course, drew even more fire from consumers and the press.
Chapstick proved to be one of those that just doesn't get how to be on Facebook. As Jeff Benjamin said, "Brands need to evolve culturally and become social brands. When a brand is on Facebook and you feel like it probably shouldn't be there, it's that the brand hasn't figured out how to communicate in 2011. If that brand wants to survive, it needs to become a more social brand and figure out how to communicate socially."