Be human and make it personal

Be human and make it personal
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In an exclusive interview with Alex Hayes at this year’s Cannes Lions, Facebook’s Mark D’Arcy talks about how brands can be successful on the social network.

The future of successful brands relies on the age-old concepts of human stories and personal connection.

People engage with their Facebook news feed like it’s their local newspaper. It holds all the information that matters to them and they look at it multiple times a day. At any given time they might see content from a picture of their niece smiling, to an article by Time magazine, to a message of female empowerment by Dove.

But what’s important here is the behaviour and the connection. As a marketer you have to decide what you contribute to deserve being there.

It’s a return to the concept that you don’t have the right to interrupt someone’s TV show – you have the opportunity. You don’t have the right to be in someone’s news feed – you have the opportunity. This right comes down to good creativity, thoughtfulness and humanity. And it is here where craft becomes exponentially more valuable.

My job is to help brands tell better stories and drive revenue. At the core of this is the quality of the connection. The more beautiful, relevant and useful the content a brand contributes to a person’s news feed, the better the user experience and the more profitable and beneficial Facebook is to customers.

The potential of what we can build in the online world is infinite and, most importantly, there are fewer definitive right and wrong pursuits. There is a breadth for exploration which is diametrically opposed to the method that we were once hard-coded to create, which sees the CCO demanding that nobody leaves the building until the project is perfect.

Of course the creative standards of craft and design are still there, but what’s arising out of digital marketing is a constant evolutionary process which sees a dramatic shift from the traditional linear way. There’s now a very journalistic approach – which is a positive move. Brand agencies are leaning into publishing and building newsrooms. And in this space, you have to now create and learn at the speed of culture.

It’s a different cadence to the way the industry has told stories, but once the creatives get it, they flourish because they’re working to a different rhythm. They experience a more regular feeling of creative satisfaction as they’re constantly creating and interacting. It’s not a case of a piece of work going out only every three months.

We used to only get the feedback from people in focus groups, but now we can listen all the time. It provides an intimacy and a connection.

In my first year at Facebook there was a lot of focus on the social technology aspect and building applications, but the simplest way you can leverage the platform is to have a solid publishing strategy that allows you to tell amazing stories and engage millions of people. What I would hate to see is the potential to use culture and this time-centric element carelessly, with a news story about ‘man falls over’ leading to an ad for non-slip shoes, for example.

As creatives, we need to care deeply about driving the genuine scale of our ideas in the work we do. The focus needs to be taken off the dollars saved and focused on the meaning created. It’s not good enough that 10,000 people saw a thoughtless post. You have to spend more time on your brand’s post than you do on your own. You can’t reach five million people with a status, ‘Like us if you like summer’ and expect engagement.

Telling better stories is the most powerful way to reach people. Then you layer all the technology on top. If you invest in crafting something beautiful, it can be amplified to many more people. And big agencies are putting this at the heart of their offering now. Social media is not just left in the hands of interns any more.

There’s a bifurcation in the industry these days. There’s the work that everybody sees and then the work that we see. We need to close this gap. And that comes down to creative people caring about distribution, re-engaging with the media and knowing the difference between the engagement of one million, 10 million or 50 million people. The difference lies with the work that matters and connects.

We, as an industry, need to have rampant and insatiable curiosity. As David Droga said this year at the Cannes festival: “I don’t have all the answers, but I have the intention.”

No one has the right to be arrogant – we’re all explorers. We’re all going to find answers and improve, but that’s largely dependent on curiosity. And to help maintain this curiosity we need to invite new talent into our creative structures.

A team finds a renewed interest when someone comes in from a different world, so agencies should be open to hiring people from different backgrounds – it’s hybrid vigour. You’re inspiring a new exchange of ideas.

And just as much as this exchange should be happening between teams, creative communities should be learning and stealing from each other – everyone from the technology creatives to the journalists. Nobody has a monopoly over creativity.

Cannes used to be about creative people celebrating their craft, but now it’s a celebration of that craft’s impact on global economies, capitalism, ideas, changing the world. This is the power of creative thinkers.

Mark D’Arcy is Facebook’s global director of creative solutions. 

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