Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells marketers to stop posting boring ads in the newsfeed

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at Cannes

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at Cannes

The chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, appealed to marketers to use the medium like the most interesting users of the social network – and to avoid posting “boring” ads and think more carefully about the art of storytelling.

Ads on the medium are getting better and more relevant, but the industry needed to get to the point where every ad on Facebook is “delightful”, Sandberg urged delegates at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity today.

In a wide ranging interview that was well received by her audience, Sandberg also called on the industry to change how women are portrayed in advertising.

She also said that if Facebook launched today, it would have been a mobile app rather than designed for desktop computers.

“In the era of mass marketing, creative was king – that was what mattered in TV, radio and print. When the digital era emerged, the notion was the algorithms are what matters,” she said in an interview with AdAge. “But but that’s not the sort of digital that really builds brands online.”

The principle for creating ads for Facebook is the same as how the most engaging Facebook users use the medium, she said.

“Some friends post stuff that you’re exited to see, and some friends post boring stuff – the same principle applies [for marketers],” she said.

The opportunity for marketers on Facebook lies in the “resurgence” of storytelling, she said. “We’re seeing some companies take advantage of that, which is driving sales for their companies.”

The big opportunity for Facebook is in mobile, Sandberg said.

“It’s almost so obvious but mobile is so big; we’ve underestimated how big it would be,” she said, pointing to a statistic that 20 per cent of people in the US have used their phones during sex.

“The mobile transition happened at the time we went public. Mark [Zuckerberg, the company’s founder] has said if he’d started Facebook now, we would have started as a mobile app,” she said.

Shifting to a question about marketing on mobile devices, she pointed to a statistic in the US that shows that while people spend 20 per cent of their time on mobile devices, only four per cent of marketing budgets goes on mobile.

She commented: “Time transitions quicker than budgets. There’s always a lag. But there’s a big opportunity here, because marketing can become personal again.”

“What makes an ad that’s not produced just for you feels like it has – that’s great creative,” she said about what makes an effective ad on a mobile device.

Sandberg, who is a campaigner for equal rights for women, said that the state of gender equality in the corporate world was “depressing”.

She appealed to brands and agencies to think carefully about how women are portrayed in advertising, stressing the need for “real people” in ads and to create more imagery of “joyful fathering”.

Advertisers have a “big responsibility and a big opportunity” to address the imbalance in gender equality, she said, praising the ‘Labels Against Women’ ad for Pantene created by BBDO Guerrero in the Philippines.

“If we start expecting women to lead, it won’t be such a surprise when a creative director is a woman,” she said, echoing the statistic that only three per cent of creative directors globally are female.

Robin Hicks in Cannes

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