Depeche Mode Turns Over Its Facebook Page to Fans -- for an Entire Year

Behind the Work: BBH and Facebook Creative Shop Build a 'Publishing Platform'

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In order to get through her chemotherapy, cancer survivor Liz Dwyer wore the shirt of her favorite band, '80s synth pop icons Depeche Mode, every time she would go for treatment. "It would remind me of all the good memories and keep me feeling like I was alive again," she says in a video for the band, wiping away tears.

Hers is just one of the many stories now on the band's Facebook page, which Depeche Mode has turned over to a different fan to moderate -- every day, for a year. The idea is geared toward promoting the release of the band's 14th studio album, "Spirit," and the concert tour it began May 5 in Stockholm.

More then 3,000 people applied earlier this year after lead singer Dave Gahan posted a message inviting people to participate. Depeche Mode's management team has also helped secure celebrity fans' involvement. In addition to Dwyer, moderators have included a journalism student, astronaut Tim Peake, Tony Hawk (who brought in his friend Trent Reznor) and most recently Linkin Park. The band took over the page Friday, the day its own new album came out.

"We grew up on Depeche Mode," the band wrote in its first post. "They were one of our earliest influences -- from the sounds they used to the ways they put a song together." The band performed a cover of Depeche Mode's "Strange Love" at its show Friday night in Las Vegas, which it attempted to broadcast on Facebook Live, with some hiccups. It later include a clip from that performance in its final post.

BBH L.A. and Facebook's Creative shop are the creative forces behind the takeover idea. "Our deck, when we first presented it, centered on, how do we promote a new album for a band that's been around for 30 years? We let the fans do it for us," said BBH L.A. Senior Copywriter Emily Rosen.

BBH continues to go through fan submissions, looking for intriguing stories that may dovetail with the band's tour in some way.

Bigger brands looking to tap Facebook fans might find some useful tips in the project. "It doesn't require the band to actively promote themselves," said Alex Pollock, one of the band's managers. "It's much more about fans speaking to other fans, a platform for them to come together and amplify the band in that way."

It also provides a mechanism for consistent, "authentic" messages as the band's tour continues into next year. "It's more of a publishing platform than it is a one-off campaign," said Pelle Sjoenell, global chief creative officer at BBH.

Putting your page in fans' hands comes with risks, from seeing them post something unsavory such as hate speech or just something boring. BBH and Facebook built a tool that tied in with Facebook's API to help sure the posts met certain standards. And in the case of content that's not so great, "It's just a day," Pollock said. "If we get a variety of different voice and some things are not interesting to the majority, we're all right with that. It will be interesting to somebody."

BBH is also involved as participants tell their stories. "Our role is to help them find the narrative," said BBH Community Manager Carl Stevens. "We're there for as much help, or as little help as fans want. There are some with a very clear idea of the story they want to tell, but others who have an amazing connection but don't necessarily know how to explain it."

The agency got involved in the first place when Pollack asked a friend at the agency for advice on who could help promote the new album. BBH raised an enthusiastic hand. Sjoenell and his brother Calle, who now heads up Facebook Creative Shop Nordics, are "Modies" themselves. "Back in Sweden, we would line up outside in the cold, sitting in cardboard boxes, waiting to buy tickets," Pelle said.

Facebook Creative Shop has worked to protect to the user experience throughout, according to Calle Sjoenell. "That's always Facebook's first rule," he said. To avoid annoying people with updates as a new moderator took over every day and put up his or her photo, for example, the team decided to update the photo only weekly and use a video "carousel" to highlight multiple moderators and tease upcoming celebrities.

In the first month of the campaign, which began in March, the Depeche Mode page saw a 26.4% increase in engaged users and a 74.4% increase in unpaid reach, according to stats compiled by the BBH team.

"The thing we found so interesting about the idea is that it's such a gentle twist of the way our system works, but you can create this massive engagement," said Facebook's Sjoenell.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously described Depeche Mode fan Liz Dwyer as a single mother. She is married.

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