Facebook: “We Need New Measurement for a New Era”

From the outside looking in it might seem obvious that Facebook would be all about mobile strategy, but according to Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook, that was not actually the case until recently.

“Mobile happened faster than we even saw,” said Everson, speaking at the Advertising Research Foundation’s 2014 re:Think conference in New York City. “We had no mobile ad revenue two years ago—zero.”

So don’t feel bad if you don’t have a mobile strategy in place yet—but do get on the stick if you want to stay in business. Because mobile is now. Let’s take a moment to look at the numbers, shall we:

  • There are five billion mobile phones currently in use.
  • In many countries there are more mobile subscriptions than there are people.
  • This year alone a projected one billion smartphones are set to be sold.

Roughly 65 years ago advertisers had to make the shift from radio to television; today, in a similar vein, it’s about embracing mobile and measuring it with metrics that make sense.

“There’s a major shift that’s happening in the U.S. and frankly in many part of the world that will likely not happen again in our careers or our lifetimes,” Everson said. “That’s why we need to rethink the way we go to market, the way we develop insights and build creative and the way we deliver messages to people across many different devices.”

But with this caveat: “Forget about Big Data,” said Everson. “It doesn’t mean anything without useful insights built around people.”

Speaking of building insights around people, that’s where Facebook’s mobile strategy has its origins. About two and a half years ago, Facebook was studying usage trends around the world and made the startling discovery that more people were accessing Facebook via a mobile device rather than a PC. Startling, Everson noted, because Facebook was essentially founded as a desktop company in a time (a whole 10 years ago) when mobile wasn’t even really part of the conversation.

“We’re a tech company with unbelievable access to data that sees what the consumer is doing every given second—and mobile even took us by surprise,” she said. “Now it’s time for us to rethink all measurement capabilities and build them around the consumer, because the consumer is already there.”

The consumer is leading the way forward—and the way forward is not last-click attribution. Yes, last click is tempting because it’s simple, it’s established, it’s easy; but last click is not a reflection of reality anywhere—not in the offline world and certainly not in the online world.

We’re in a multi-device—heck, a multi-app—world. In fact, over one third of people use multiple devices daily. According to recent numbers from market research firm GfK, more than 60% of consumers in the U.S. use two devices a day, while one-quarter of consumers use three devices daily. But it’s not as if consumers are using each device in a neat little vacuum. They’re starting on one device, seamlessly transitioning to another, and answering a call in the midst—all while watching TV.

That’s why personalization is the next big step for brands, Everson says. It won’t be easy, but it will be (scratch that, is) necessary.

“Thirty years ago personalizing messages for consumers was a bit easier because consumers were arguably only using one media at a time—TV or newspapers or magazines,” Everson said. “Now people discover information on their own terms with whichever device they want to use, whatever time they want.”

Consumers are chewing through digital content at warp speed, which includes, of course, an enormous volume of commercial messages—up to 700 every day, god help us. What it all amounts to is the need for what Everson refers to as “new measurement for a new era.” That’s what will help marketers deliver the right kind of creative. Consumers, and Facebook users especially, are hip to native advertising and they’re not going to accept being blasted with irrelevant nonsense on their walls.

“We must look at multi-touch attribution,” Everson said. “Measurements today are dated—they need to evolve to show the fragmented media landscape, because major investment decisions are being made in the absence of full information.”

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