Now, the real work begins for Meta, Facebook and its billion-dollar marketing plan, after the social networking giant chose Publicis Groupe’s Spark Foundry as its media agency.
The agencies in the review—Publicis, Dentsu and Havas—wanted to land the Facebook account, which covers Instagram, WhatsApp and VR products like Oculus. But when the process was over, winner Publicis’ Spark Foundry found itself responsible for an entirely new corporate entity. Not only did Facebook just pick a new media agency, but it also underwent its largest rebrand since its founding in 2004, becoming Meta. The next step is moving Facebook’s legacy marketing infrastructure from its last agency, WPP’s Mindshare, to Spark Foundry.
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Ad Age spoke with advertising executives involved in Meta’s seven-month agency review, mostly on condition of anonymity, to understand what comes next for this behemoth of a company and its ambitious marketing plans. Meta is looking to a future in the “metaverse,” the alternative cyber-economy that is bustling with innovation and is seen as the gateway to youthful internet culture.
On Nov. 2, Ad Age was first to report on Publicis winning Meta’s media business, culminating the review that began in April. Now, there are more details about how the agencies competed; why Publicis won; and what it means. One detail about the ad agency review to note is that the participating firms were in the dark about Facebook's plans to evolve into Meta.
Meta worked with growth consultancy ID Comms on the agency review process. ID Comms declined to comment.
Read: Facebook selects Spark Foundry as its media agency
Facebook considered bringing the agencies into the actual metaverse, according to an advertising and media exec who was close to the process. Facebook’s metaverse product line includes Oculus headsets (it renamed the headsets Meta Quest devices, as part of the rebrand). Meta also has software and gaming platforms in virtual reality like Horizon Workrooms, a space where people log in with avatars to join meetings. Facebook execs have used Horizon virtual spaces in business presentation over the past year, but did not use them formally in the review. “There was a question if any of the pitch should be conducted in the metaverse or in VR,” said the advertising and media exec. “And there was discussion about that, but it was decided not to at this point.”
Even if the agencies never donned the Quest headsets, virtual connections were still a big part of the process, since this was a review conducted during COVID-19. The review was finalized without any of the major stakeholders from the agencies or Facebook meeting face to face, people involved in the process said.
On Meta’s end, the executive leading the review was Chief Marketing Officer Alex Schultz, who took over the role last year after working at Facebook since 2007. Facebook Inc., now Meta Platforms Inc., 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 was 2.6%, which was the highest on record for Facebook. The company was the world’s 77th largest advertiser in Ad Age Datacenter’s most recent ranking.
Publicis’ Spark Foundry is expected to manage a budget of close to $1 billion a year, which will go to marketing all manner of Facebook and Meta products. With $1 billion in yearly spending, that amounts to fees that could reach between $30 million and $50 million a year for Spark Foundry, according to people familiar with the economics of the deal.