The strategy was built on a key insight that while Facebook's overall reach continues to expand, the relative effectiveness of “organic” reach for big brands as been diminishing proportionately.
“The lingering model of organic always-on content creation for brands has become inefficient and ineffective,” BBDO concluded in “About Face: A New Approach To Facebook For Big Brands,” that is the cornerstone of the agency's transformation from TV to socially distributed video.
The model, which was developed by BBDO's communications planning team, found that while 97% of the top 100 brands still rely on organic postings on Facebook, they have become largely ineffective as the shear amount of brand content has expanded and as Facebook's algorithms have throttled organic brand feeds down to little, if any, reach.
The solution: Utilize Facebook not as a social network, but a “media channel.”
The strategy requires a fundamental rethinking of how to utilize Facebook, starting with the metrics and key performance indicators that brands use to validate its impact. BBDO encouraged clients to shift from conventional engagement metrics such as likes, shares and comments,” which the agency found did not correlate well with business results and shifted to so-called “impact-led metrics” measuring explicit actions for the brand.
Not surprisingly, the plan required a shift from organic to “paid support” to reach and influence brand targets.
The reboot enabled BBDO to return to “campaign-based thinking” and develop campaign measurement methods that are more akin to traditional media plans than social awareness marketing.
The shift enabled BBDO to broaden the reach of Facebook beyond brands’ most loyal “fans” and develop so-called “penetration campaigns,” which were 75% more effective in driving brand results.
“For brands to grow share they cannot just target loyal consumers, but must also aim to increase their customer base to include light category buyers and non-buyers,” communications planners James Mullally and Alysha Lalji write in the white paper that is the blueprint for the strategy.
The team's insight that “reach matters” may not be remarkable, but the plan for implementing it via Facebook was an important turnabout for some of its biggest clients -- brands such as AT&T, Foot Locker, Lowe's, Mars, Bacardi and others -- which adopted the three-pronged initiative: 1) discontinue organic content; 2) shift to campaign-based thinking; and 3) stop reporting “engagement.”
The shift enabled BBDO to begin managing Facebook like a media reach channel as part of a mix.
The agency simultaneously implementing an initiative, code-named “Project Thumb Breaker,” to optimize video content among Facebook users reached on their mobile devices. The program essentially took a brand’s existing video assets, or created new ones that were optimized in a vertical format utilized by most mobile users.
While the agency continued to do breakthrough TV campaigns -- such as its award-winning “Marilyn” spot for Snickers or its much talked about “Puppy Monkey Baby” Super Bowl commercial for Mountain Dew -- it was taming campaign-based video advertising on Facebook that made BBDO MediaPost's Social Media Agency of the Year for 2016.