Interview: Facebook's First Head of Consumer Marketing Rebecca Van Dyck

Much-Discussed Spot Featuring 'Chairs' Seems Readymade for TV

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Facebook celebrated logging in its billionth user last week with a sleekly-made spot created out of agency-of -record Wieden & Kennedy. Whether the company is ready to take cues from Google and Microsoft and start committing to serious marketing outlays remains to be seen. (Its stated intention is to distribute the spot with Facebook ads in 13 countries, a cross-section ranging from saturated markets the U.S. and the U.K. to user-growth opportunities like Russia and Japan.)

Rebecca Van Dyck
Rebecca Van Dyck Credit: Michael O'Neal

Facebook's first head of consumer marketing Rebecca Van Dyck (formerly global CMO at Levi's) talked to Ad Age about making the ad, the message it's trying to send to people who aren't on Facebook yet, and Facebook's future as a marketer.

Ad Age : Are there any plans to place the ad ("Things That Connect Us") on TV?

Ms. Van Dyck: We think the content is highly engaging, so we're going to put it on Facebook and have it roll out there and watch the social nature of it and then see where that takes us. But for right now, if we're on the record, we're just talking about launching it on Facebook.

Ad Age : You came onboard in February. What have you been doing since then?

Ms. Van Dyck: Nothing (smiles). You know, an interesting story is [that ] this project started before I got here. We didn't quite know when we'd hit 1 billion, so it started with this initial idea of how we would we want to express our values. Our users have a really intimate relationship with us through their friends, but every once in a while we want to define who we are for ourselves. So that conversation started at least a year ago, and folks here initiated a conversation with Wieden & Kennedy in October. They were also looking for someone in my role at that point, but Wieden & Kennedy beat me to the punch.

Ad Age : Do you have a target audience in mind for the ad? There's a lot of young people in it.

Ms. Van Dyck: Our target is broad, and it actually isn't for young people necessarily. We want it to be worldwide. We're creating this for our users, so about 1 billion would be great to reach. But we also think it's a message that will be interesting and relevant to non-users as well.

Ad Age : So the message to non-users is , "You should get on Facebook"?

Ms. Van Dyck: Yeah, but instead of doing a direct call to action at the end of an ad ... that isn't our intention ... We feel like we need to be more respectful and introduce ourselves and to say "This is what we believe in" and "Come onboard." Or even, "This is what we stand for, and if that means you feel great about liking your cousin's photo, then great, do that ." It can be small gestures as well.

Ad Age : What about the phenomenon of teens spending more time on younger social platforms like Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram [owned by Facebook]. Do you see part of your job as showing kids that Facebook is still cool?

Ms. Van Dyck: Our numbers are wildly healthy, so no, part of my remit isn't to get either new users or to get young users or to change perceptions of young users. That isn't part of our concern. We do see ourselves as just one of the tools of many that people use to connect, and what we're focused on here is every day just iterating and innovating and making this tool set and this service the absolute best we can.

Ad Age : Do you see Facebook becoming a heavy-spending marketer any time soon? According to filings, it spent $28 million on advertising last year. Will that be a lot bigger this year?

Ms. Van Dyck: I think our intention is to continue this conversation with our users. But I'm not going to talk about budget or what our plans are.

Ad Age : What about a Super Bowl ad some time soon?

Ms. Van Dyck: No comment (laughs).

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