Facebook's VP-global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson is headed back stateside after spending the last half year in London, but first, unsurprisingly, she'll spend the week in Cannes. It's a week filled with meetings for Facebook's sales chief, and she'll also convene the company's "client council" of 18 top brand and agency executives on Wednesday morning to give them an inside look at what Facebook has planned and solicit their feedback.
Before leaving for France, she chatted with Ad Age about the growth of Facebook's mobile ad business, the potential of Instagram, the drift away from social ads as Facebook's unique value proposition, and the recently announced cull of over half of the social network's existing ad units.
Ad Age: In terms of what ads Facebook might retire, do you think right-hand rail ads might ever go away? It seems like marketers are much more enthusiastic about news feed.
Carolyn Everson: The right-hand side -- which is obviously only in the desktop environment -- is still serving a significant purpose. I'll start with small and medium businesses, which actually rely on that advertising unit a lot, all the way up to big brands that use it particularly for Facebook exchange and retargeting. So I don't expect we'll do anything in terms of having it go away. I certainly don't foresee that coming... [But] we went from 0 percent to 30 percent in mobile, and that is driven by a move to news feed. The fact of the matter is that I'm having more conversations with marketers and agencies where they realize the power of news feed because it gets into people's hands on their mobile devices.
Ad Age: So 30% of last quarter's revenue came from mobile. Do you see that continuing to tick upward?
Ms. Everson: I can't comment on any future projections. What I can say is that our mobile growth numbers and the interest advertisers have in mobile continue to strengthen... And be it a photo or a video page post on news feed, it often takes up almost the entire screen if it's on a smart phone. And that is a beautiful creative canvas. So suddenly we've ignited a lot of interest from the creative community. They're not thinking about us as just that right-hand rail.
Ad Age: Do you see a lot of marketers who are exclusively interested in mobile?
Ms. Everson: Yes, we definitely have marketers that will say to us, can we consider doing a mobile-only deal? And we're happy to entertain that conversation. There are some large marketers that have been fairly vocal lately in the press around their mobile-only deals, and that's a really important strategy for them. I think a lot of the motivation behind those deals is to institute very rapid change in the company. If they sign a mobile-only deal, it makes the marketer and their teams realize how important [mobile] is. The other thing I should say is that we also have [the ability to target feature phones only] which we did not have as of two months ago... [Advertising on feature phones] has been a very important way for global marketers to reach consumers in emerging markets.
Ad Age: There are no ads on Instagram yet, but marketers are excited about it. What kinds of ads do you think would work in that environment?
Ms. Everson: Instagram's growth is incredibly impressive -- it's a 100 million-plus users now per month, and over 40 million photos are being uploaded now per month... In terms of what marketers are doing, a lot of them are on Instagram now. Their brands are represented, they're taking photos. You have Burberry, Nike, GoPro, Red Bull, a lot of brands that are probably the usual suspects.... So you can start to imagine what we might do down the road because of that.
Ad Age: What does a native Instagram ad look like?
Ms. Everson: I can't comment on what we're going to do with Instagram. What I can tell you is that [CEO] Kevin [Systrom] has spent time with the client council and shared the exciting growth that has happened on Instagram. And his advice and our advice for all of our clients is that they get on it, see what's going on and upload some photography about your brand that makes sense to understand how the platform works.
Ad Age: What do you think the monetization potential is for hashtags?
Ms. Everson: Hashtags are an important language on the internet, and we found that people were using them quite extensively on Facebook and they weren't able to aggregate those conversations into anything that made sense. So you can imagine the use cases down the road as people continue to use hashtags -- around content they're interested in, around travel, around all sorts of topics -- that there will be a lot of interesting opportunities. But there's no monetization plan right now for it. This is a consumer product, and one that we'll continue to iterate on.
Ad Age: Do you feel like Facebook has taken a step back from the concept of social ads? Over the last year, it feels like the emphasis has shifted over to products like FBX and custom audiences and lookalike targeting.
Ms. Everson: I'll give you a tidbit of what just happened today in the U.K. I had two major client meetings, and those clients came in talking about Facebook six months ago, which [meant talking] about fans on your page, social context and what I would call social-media tactics. And it was a really key turning point in both of those meetings when I said that that was Facebook six months ago. Where Facebook is today is about being a mass reach vehicle in an incredibly targeted way. It's explaining that we have all of the people that matter to [marketers] every single day and on every single device that they want to reach people on.