What Facebook's Carolyn Everson Tells Marketers About Their Culture

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Carolyn Everson.
Carolyn Everson. Credit: Nathan Skid for Advertising Age
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Carolyn Everson is drawing on the wall at Facebook's offices in New York. It's a warning sign of sorts.

There's a graph of revenue over time, and there are four basic kinds of companies represented: the comfortable giants with plenty of money but plateauing growth, rivals that have more or less caught the giants and are still growing, the startups that might come for them all, and the flameouts.

"This is something that I've been using to guide a lot of my conversations with key clients over the last nine months," Ms. Everson said. "So a lot of what we do, culture is the most important."

Why is Facebook's VP-global marketing solutions so focused on what she calls "culture" questions? Here's what Ms. Everson had to say about how she's schooling the industry to not just innovate but, of course, use Facebook to do so.

This conversation has been lightly edited.

Advertising Age: What do you tell advertisers about "culture" and why it's important?

Carolyn Everson: Think of it this way. There are the traditional companies -- General Motors, Ford, Marriott, Starwood, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Coke, Pepsi -- the traditional companies that have been around a long time, and they're either growing in single digits or they're declining or flattening, but none of them are skyrocketing, for the most part.

Then there are these disruptors. They're emerging on the scene. They're often mobile-first. They get a lot of excitement. They get the funding, but they execute really poorly and they implode, because if you think about it every day, about 1,000 apps get sent to iOS and Android for approval. They all don't make it. There are these companies that are superhot and, poof, they're gone.

Then there are you know, take Walmart, Target, and take Amazon. Amazon is clearly coming at them. And sometimes these types of companies are too small for the bigger companies to even see a hit on their revenue, but you know they're coming.

Ad Age: How can Facebook even begin to help with a client's culture?

Ms. Everson: With 4 million advertisers we get to see all the different kinds of companies, because we have relationships with all the top marketers. And the disruptors often are building their businesses -- they might spend 90% of their investment on Facebook. That's not an uncommon thing we see.

Ad Age: So, you've helped diagnose cultural shifts for clients. How does that help Facebook?

Ms. Everson: Here's the thing. If you can start to act more like a disruptor -- move fast, get rid of the silos, become more collaborative, more data-driven -- what we do becomes more intuitive.

They start saying, "Of course, we need to create hundreds of versions of creative and test them." And, of course, we can't be on a six- to nine-month creative cycle, because that's just not the way these digital environments work. And, of course, we're going to measure business outcomes and not proxy metrics.

Ad Age: What do you tell any lumbering companies to do?

Ms. Everson: There are four strategies. You can't just sit there and say I'm not going to do anything. One is acquisition -- what Unilever did with Dollar Shave Club. And Walmart bought Jet. Just in the last two months that happened.

The second strategy that we see is to create an investment arm of your company and invest like you're a VC. That's what General Motors did with Lyft. They gave them $500 million, and I'm sure they'd love Lyft to be successful, but on the other side I'm sure GM is doing it to learn.

The third one is to create what I've called parallel organizations by setting up a separate team in the company that operates with different KPIs.

The fourth is rewiring of the culture, and that's the hardest one to do. It is hard to find companies that have rewired themselves culturally. IBM is one. They've done a really good job of rewiring their culture. Kodak is one example -- they blew all four strategies.

Ad Age: How does all this culture talk fit into all the changes in advertising? For instance, do you see brands continuing to change their agencies, which we've seen a lot of?

Ms. Everson: I do hear there will be more, but I don't know. My hope for the industry is that they're being done in the right spirit, in the spirit of maybe changing the model of how they are working. Perhaps they want media and creative to work more closely together, which I personally think is going to be a major theme we're going to see in the agency community.

If you look at AT&T's decision around Omnicom and Hearts & Science and BBDO, it's a blending of media and creative. Media and creative I just think have to come closer together.

Even if a brand gives its media to one holding company and creative to another, they will need them both to be working together more closely.