VIDEO: Facebook shifting focus to agencies, launching platform just for them

Facebook brought in a few of its big thinkers from Silicon Valley to meet with Canada's agency community as part of a global project to connect with brands through their creative advertising and media partners.

Facebook brought in a few of its big thinkers from Silicon Valley to meet with Canada’s agency community as part of a global project to connect with brands through their creative advertising and media partners.

Facebook’s advertising model has, like much of the social platform’s functionality, been in flux since its inception. Until recently the company had been flogging its display and dynamic ads directly to marketers.

Now reaching out to creative, PR and media agencies, Facebook is conducting a series of live events called Facebook Studio Live, the first of which took place yesterday in Toronto. Attendees met with Facebook execs who re-introduced them to the platform and touted its benefits as a marketing and consumer outreach vehicle.

“We spent the first years as a company focusing an awful lot on clients,” said Blake Chandlee, the Facebook vice-president who’s leading the company’s agency outreach efforts. “Around the world, we had clients coming forward, saying ‘help us,’ but then we’d sit down with their agencies, and they’d tell us ‘we don’t know how to do that.’

“We need to shift our approach to the market and focus on the agencies,” Chandlee told Studio Live attendees. “We want you to help us build a global structure that empowers agencies.”

As part of this outreach, Facebook is also readying the launch of Facebook Studio, a platform designed for creatives, account managers and strategists to share their work globally. Studio will apply Facebook’s standard functions–”likes,” sharing and comments–to each submitted ad or best-practice document.

Studio is intended not only to feature the most-liked work in a spotlight section, but provide a global forum for agencies to share ideas.

The idea for Studio came out of meetings with 16 global agency CEOs held in London earlier this year. Facebook is also working with award programs such as the Clios and One Show, which will be submitting work on behalf of their entrants.

Submitted work “will be visible to everybody,” Chandlee said, including competitors and consumers, “which means [agencies] had better get their act together.” If clients logging into Facebook can see what work the global creative community believes is the best work in the market, “we think it will raise the bar. The world is going to become very open and connected.”

Ari Steinberg, an engineering manager at Facebook and one of its earliest employees, also took the stage at Studio Live Wednesday to offer a glimpse at how the company innovates. In addition to explaining company culture with a few distilled sayings (“Move fast and break things” and “Fail harder” among them), Steinberg described Facebook’s “Hackathon” events, in which engineers try to overcome product challenges or add new functionality with intense brainstorming sessions.

Steinberg said Hackathons can result in some slap-dash coding and ineffective tools, but the no-holds-barred approach has led to the creation of Facebook Chat and several behind-the-scenes improvements.

To close the Toronto event, Studio Live attendees took part in a Hackathon of their own, addressing challenges brought forward by three participating non-profit organizations: UNICEF, Free The Children and Dignitas.

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