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Q&AA: Facebook's Andrew Keller on 6-Second Ads, Creativity and Prototyping

By Published on .

Learn more about rapid creative iteration and new marketing forms at Ad Age Next in New York on Nov. 15 and 16, with speakers from players including P&G, Google, Burger King, Walmart and Amazon.

'We didn't get to create TV advertising, or print advertising,' Facebook's Andrew Keller says, 'but here is a real opportunity to crate what this six-second short mobile-video piece looks like, and that's extremely exciting.'
'We didn't get to create TV advertising, or print advertising,' Facebook's Andrew Keller says, 'but here is a real opportunity to crate what this six-second short mobile-video piece looks like, and that's extremely exciting.' Credit: Illustration by Arthur E. Giron

Andrew Keller is barely a year into his role as global creative director of Facebook's Creative Shop, the 200-strong in-house team with the tricky task of teaching agencies how to make ads on a constantly changing social network. This year's hot format may not work for the next campaign cycle. And there's never a guarantee that marketers have even mastered last year's ads yet.

Keller, the former CEO and executive creative director at CP&B, talked about what's next for creativity at Facebook, the difference between storyboarding an ad and just making it, and the trend of the moment: six-second ads. Our conversation has been edited.

One of the big yearly projects is the Facebook Awards, which highlights a new style of ad creative, like chatbots on Messenger or carousel photo ads on Instagram. What's this year's focus?
Instagram Stories is going to be the thing we will see a lot of. We talk broadly about a framework for work across Facebook platforms: 70-20-10. Focus 70 percent of your efforts into short on-the-go mobile, 20 percent into interactive pieces, and 10 percent into immersive, lean-back spaces. Instagram Stories is just a great space where you can do 15-seconds-or-less video, and then let people swipe it up to dig in deeper. You can embed websites, apps, all kinds of things to allow people to go deeper with the brand.

What are you telling brands to do with Instagram Stories?
There was a piece done for Lowe's that came out of an Instagram Stories hackathon. That was a very cool piece, where you could click through and see the transformation of a small vertical space inside a home, transforming it into a useful, beautiful space by tapping through Instagram Stories.

Do vertical videos perform better than horizontal videos for mobile? Surely you have data on that.
We can't say if there is data to share yet. But people are spending time enjoying it, there is a lot of attention happening there. And the results we are seeing in that space are extremely positive.

What is your priority now?
We are about 200 people at about 40 locations. In some ways we've pivoted with messages like 70-20-10 that generate frameworks for how to bring big ideas onto the platform. Advertisers can be more idea-first rather than asset-first. The other piece of this is that advertising production has been built around television for so long, as we look at mobile there's an opportunity to really begin working in different ways—less of a waterfall approach and more of an agile, iterative approach.

What about the six-second ads getting so much press? Do advertisers really want those?
We are seeing some critical mass build around six seconds. There are other media spaces that are doing six seconds, too. The industry is looking for a little bit of consistency and six seconds is that opportunity.

We are talking to brands and agencies a lot about what's possible in that space—what type of work can happen in six seconds. It is going to be a new art form. It will have its own language. Right now we're just cutting all kinds of content down to six seconds, and that's ultimately not what's going to happen there. We didn't get to create TV advertising, or print advertising, but here is a real opportunity to create what this six-second short mobile-video piece looks like, and that's extremely exciting.

A lot of other media platforms, including broadcast and cable TV, are now offering six-second spots. AMC just sold Microsoft some six-second ads to run before "The Walking Dead." Do you tell clients it's OK to run them wherever they want?
When you come from working on the client side or the agency side, it's easy to think that maybe Facebook people think of Facebook as the only ad option. But I would encourage brands to find the best mediums and to look for the best places for content, and leverage content across platforms as necessary.

Speaking of the agency side, how is working at Facebook different from working at CP&B?
Working inside an agency, there was a tight focus on building work that is going to transform your client's business. That is what you do, day-in day-out, and I loved that. Coming from that side is why I believe so much in creative agencies and what they're able to bring to Facebook. Now I'm working with media folks, advertising creative folks, publishing partners, talking to clients, talking about the future of advertising. It's a wider basket of projects that I wind up on. That's what I love about being here.

What is the biggest challenge facing creatives on Facebook today?
One is short mobile video. As the consumer controls the medium more and more, they control the consumption in mobile, and it puts creative at a premium. You can't just buy attention. You really have to earn attention in these spaces to get the time with people and your consumers.

Connected to that is finding new ways of working to leverage the platform in ways you can learn. Marketing departments are able to shift and become more like learning departments, to be able to push some work out and see what's happening, what's resonating.

Who do you admire creatively?
We've been working with creative agencies through hackathons, and it's great to see many of them participate and doing a great job, whether that's BBDO, Publicis or McCann. There is also a lot to learn from performance marketers, or the brands that have engaged in a lot of performance marketing. Brands like Airbnb that mastered that connection between brand, meaning and emotion at the top of the funnel, and utility and value at the bottom of the funnel.

Where do you see opportunities for Facebook?
Small businesses that don't necessarily have creative agencies and feel challenged making ads. What we talk about is the ability to build ads on the phone, and we created a mobile studio, an aggregation of great mobile apps that allow you to do great effects and to edit, create ads on your phone. A lot of us in Creative Shop, that's how we work: We build ads on our phone, and we see small businesses building ads on their phones, and increasingly we talk about prototyping.

What do you mean by prototyping?
Building prototypes instead of storyboards. Instead of talking about what an idea is or writing a script for what the idea is, why don't we just create it? Prototyping tools are just becoming more and more prevalent. A lot of people in Creative Shop and beyond are using Instagram Stories as the creative space for work that is shipped on the platform. You can save videos out of Instagram Stories, so I can create video, I can add text, I can add stickers, I can add art. There are so many creative tools, you can create a six-second video and actually use it as a paid ad on Instagram.

Keller at the Wired Business Conference Disruptive by Design during his CP&B days.
Keller at the Wired Business Conference Disruptive by Design during his CP&B days. Credit: Photograph by Larry Busacca / Getty

When people complain about the talent drain in advertising, they point to Facebook. How do you feel about that?
We hire people from many different backgrounds and industries, and look for cognitive diversity—different ways of thinking based on people having different backgrounds, experiences and information. We're at a time where more and more businesses are looking for creative thinkers and that's a positive thing for the industry. It helps further the power of creativity in business and gives creative people even more opportunities to push their thinking in new environments. I also believe that my background at a creative agency is what drives my ability to be useful to the community.

Do you hear any common themes from agencies and brands?
Six seconds. When I go out and talk with creative folks there is excitement about that, an opportunity to create something special. They understand people are processing images in 30 milliseconds and that they're getting a lot out of these pieces of content. But it also brings up the need for very clear briefs. Unlike longer pieces of content, shorter video is generally all about trying to be clear about saying one thing. The need to drive clarity is one of the things that comes up. How do we make sure we get simple enough briefs to develop the kind of work we need in the mobile space? We need to make sure we are talking mobile from the beginning.

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