King of the social media hill

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With Facebook’s recent change in its algorithm to focus more on content made by friends, rather than content from pages, it seems that Facebook wants to reposition its claim as king of the social media hill. This is particularly evident with the exquisitely executed campaign, ”Friends”.

As many other, I’ve watched and used Facebook for many years. Despite this, 2014 was the first year that Facebook experienced a drop in active users as the only major network. But as its first quarter of 2015 shows, Facebook is rebuilding. And on top of six months of excellent marketeering, Facebook developed an honest and evocative campaign.

The campaign includes three ads broadcasted on TV called “Friends”. They were first aired on February 4th during a 2015 UEFA Champions League match. It also included outdoor billboards at Oxford Street station in London. The billboards are strikingly simple and cleanly art directed, with expressive snapshots of friends, overlaid with a checkmark, the word “friends” and a subtle Facebook logo as the only direct hint of the ads’ author.

Facebook’s friends

The “Friends” campaign was created by Facebook’s California based marketing department, The Factory.

The Factory’s dreamteam of designers and ad execs reveal a company that spares no expense when it comes to marketing. But despite their (undoubtedly) unlimited means, the ads use gritty, immediate and powerfully evocative images that ground its message in relatable truths.

Its executive creative director Scott Trattner is the former ad exec at TBWA/Media Arts Lab, the agency that was established to serve Apple. From there, he launched major products like the iPhone, iPad, iTunes and iCloud. Since 2013, Trattner has worked at The Factory alongside Ms. Van Dyck, the former Levi’s Global CMO, who joined the company in February 2012. Both report to Gary Briggs, the former chief marketer at the Google-aquired Motorola, who now leads all branding and marketing for Facebook.

The campaign’s narrative – images of friendships, people laughing and connecting, taking selfies, dancing, crying and even getting a tattoo of a friend’s name: CARL. A voiceover talks about friendship and uses Facebook’s lingo to describe it – “like”, “share” and “friend request”. But the terminology is used subtly: “They drag us into their madness, make us heroes in their stories,” says the narrator. “So we let their likes become our likes, and the things they share become the things we share.” The evocative language, yet self-affacing tone meshes with the relatable: real life experiences. It also represents the polar opposite of Facebook’s old campaign, the pretentious “Chairs“ ad that uses lofty metaphors about something as simple as friendship.

I think the passion that stems from friendship is perfectly captured; particularly the few seconds in the car in “Our Friends” are evocative. The characters don’t have dialogue, yet convey heartfelt emotions. The casting and direction by MJZ’s and Mike Mills is phenomenal – collectively, they’ve created ads for Apple, Nike, Adidas, IKEA and more. In “Friends”, there are no all-American beauties, only quirky, one-of-a-kind looking people.

The three videos, “Our Friends”, “Friend Request” and, “Girl Friend” are accompanied by spare versions of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, the Cure’s “Close to me” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”. Each builds crescendo and climaxes with tears, hugs and even a gay kiss.

The ads end by displaying the Facebook logo – nothing more. I think that requires courage and a strong brand to end a commercial like that; it’s an iconic brand by now, and is finally acting like one.

From my experience, commercials like these, with this kind of color grading, style and overall production – not to mention the 34 person strong production team – equates to a highly professional and stylized campaign. Facebook went all in.

Why now?

Up until now, word of mouth has done the heavy lifting for Facebook’s marketing department. Initially, the now 200 billion-dollar company successfully attracted first-movers, who in turn drew the broader public.

But as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media companies grow, Facebook’s stake is challenged.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is (very) slowly losing its market share, and the “Friends” campaign can be seen as a response to this loss.

A recent survey shows that out of the eight biggest social media networks, Facebook was the only one in decline. While Pinterest and Tumblr saw activity increase by more than 95%, Facebook saw a decrease of 9%, according to GlobalWebIndex, a research firm that interviewed 170,000 Internet users across 32 markets for the survey.

That being said, Facebook is still by far the largest popular social network outside China – with the most members and active members. Internet users of all ages spend more time on social networks than ever – on an average, people used 1.72 hours per day in 2014, up from 1.61 hours in 2012. And 30% of our Internet time is spent solely on social networking.

Even though Facebook has lost some of its market share. We use social media more than ever. So perhaps, Facebook wants to remind its users why it exists.

Facebook’s brand

The campaign is not about telling people that Facebook is an easy-to-use conduit for friendships, but rather that Facebook is a place where friendships live.

Such a claim takes courage.

Because it is easy to argue that Facebook is rooted in a digital, lonesome world – not outdoors with friends. But that misses the point of the ads – and perhaps what Facebook wants to position itself as.

Facebook is a place where people can hold on to the friends that are most important to them.

Perhaps the social media giant is trying to re-conquer their brand essence: moving towards meaningful friendships and away from the usual Facebook garbage, like Candycrush-invites and the like. Maybe, Facebook wants to reposition its claim as king of the sociale media hill.

Creating a brand that feels authentic is no easy measure. In 2014, Stagis helped Copenhagen Business School’s program, Master of Public Governance live and express their brand. By mapping and uncovering the university program’s identity, we helped them develop a striking visual design that corresponded to their unique strengths: flexibility, research-based knowledge of the public sector and development of leadership. By doing so, their brand was expressed authentically.

The “Friends” campaign could be Facebook’s authentic expression of its identity – or at the very least, what it wants to become.

Facebook har lanceret deres kampagne første kampagne i England. Den består af tre videoer og en række udendørs kampagne, der skal formidle Facebooks budskab: Facebook er stedet, hvor venskaber lever. Jeg kan fortælle, at kampagnen er udviklet af et drømmehold af designere og reklamefolk, og man kan tydeligt se, at der er blevet brugt tid og kræfter på den.

Kampagnen kommer efter, at Facebooks markedsandel er begyndt at dale som den eneste inden for sociale medier. Derfor kan man se denne kampagne som et forsøg på at markedsføre sig mere autentisk og på den måde overbevise deres brugere om, at Facebook er mere end bare Candy-Crush invitationer.

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