First major media review in the company's history
Last year, Facebook enlisted a new chief marketing officer, longtime employee Alex Schultz, to help craft a new image for the company.
Today's news marks the completion of the first major media review in the company's history. It has worked with WPP and Dentsu as two major media buying agencies since 2014. In March, Facebook announced it would hold a review process to bring in a new media agency. In the past few months, WPP dropped out of the running to retain the business, leaving Publicis, Dentsu and Havas as the remaining contenders.
“We are deeply grateful for the partnership we’ve had with GroupM and Dentsu since 2014 and are proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish together,” the Meta spokesperson said in a statement to Ad Age.
Last week, Ad Age reported that Facebook was favoring Publicis as the lead contender, but it was not yet finalized. On Tuesday, Facebook took the last step and named Spark Foundry the winner.
“We have a long legacy of leading brands through transformation and look forward to working with Meta on the next evolution of their business,” Sarah Kramer, CEO of Spark Foundry U.S., said in a statement.
Facebook also counts a number of agencies within multiple holding companies as creative agencies, including Johannes Leonardo, Ogilvy, Wieden+Kennedy, TBWA, Leo Burnett and Droga5. Publicis counts Digitas, Leo Burnett and, Publicis Sapient among its family of creative and data-based ad agencies.
By all accounts, the competition to win Facebook’s media business was an intense process, one in which the social network applied strict terms for the potential winners. Facebook was asking for some of the best rates in media and that the winner provide as deep of discounts as they give any other clients in their portfolio when buying media online and on TV.
Facebook also ran simulations with the competing holdings companies to test their programmatic advertising buying, assessing the transparency with which they place the media; vetting their relationships to online publishers that run their media; and at what prices they set for that media. Facebook was also particularly concerned with data safety, making sure that any information it shares with its new partner remains secure and not open to being applied to potential rivals’ media plans.
Publicis and TikTok
Publicis is known for having a high-profile relationship with TikTok, the video app that is one of the biggest threats to Facebook in modern social media. TikTok also used Publicis Groupe's creative agency Le Truc for a recent ad campaign. “[It is] pretty weird considering the TikTok relationship,” said one top ad agency CEO, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In an earnings call last week, Zuckerberg called the Chinese-owned TikTok “one of the most effective competitors we have ever faced.”
Publicis is also known for working with major brand clients like Sephora, Kraft Heinz, Hulu and L'Oreal. Also this year, Publicis won the Walmart media account, bringing the giant retailer into its fold. Walmart also has worked closely with Facebook on experimental shopping technology, with programs like livestream commerce.
The politics of media agencies can be tricky, and winning Facebook as a client is certain to cause some angst for any other brands that work with Publicis. As much as Facebook was concerned about how any next media agency could share strategies and proprietary data about its marketing with others, there are brands wary that Facebook would take priority over their needs, according to advertising industry leaders.
In the end, however, working with Facebook, now Meta, was an alluring prospect. Facebook brought in nearly $85 billion in ad revenue in 2020. It also has a challenging marketing strategy ahead, one that will include inventing the metaverse, which could very well become the form of technology all brands need to understand to remain relevant.
Ad spending on the rise
Facebook, now Meta Platforms, disclosed worldwide ad spending of $2.26 billion in 2020, up 44% from the previous year. Ad spending as a percentage of revenue last year (2.6%) was the highest on record for Facebook. The company scored as the world’s 77th largest advertiser in Ad Age Datacenter’s most recent ranking.
Meta has not disclosed year-to-date 2021 ad spending. But marketing spending rose in the first nine months of the year, implying higher ad spending in 2021. (Ad spending last year accounted for about a fifth of the company’s marketing and sales expenses.) The company’s full-year ad spending has had a double or triple-digit percentage increase in all but one year since 2010, when Facebook spent $8 million on advertising.
Paris-based Publicis Groupe is the third-largest agency holding company, with 2020 revenue of $12.3 billion, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.
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