Facebook has become one of the definitive icons of the modern digital age, a virtual embodiment of the human potential of the internet as a tool for interpersonal communication and information sharing. It is also something of a fairy tale in which a computer nerd with limited interpersonal skills of his own became one of the world's richest individuals before he was 30 by ruthlessly pursuing his own vision and then cashing in with what was then the biggest technology IPO of all-time. In this fairy tale, Facebook's creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is arguably the hero and the villain combined, certainly according to his many detractors, and for a while it was far from clear yet just how happy the ending of this story would be. Even with its vast audience, which first topped 1bn monthly active users in 2012, Facebook's ability to justify its sky-high $100bn-plus valuation seemed untested, and there were distinct wobbles in the first months following the site's IPO, not least after the company paid $1bn to buy Instagram, a service with virtually no revenues at that point in time. Yet Facebook has gradually won over most sceptics (despite the even more astronomical $22bn purchase of private messaging service WhatsApp). It managed to accumulate an extraordinary #2 position in mobile advertising (behind Google) in little more than a year, and its overall sales growth appears to justify all those original expectations. However, life turned rather more challenging during 2017 and especially in 2018 as a result of a string of negative headlines over misuse of user data, privacy infringement, and the site's infiltration by fake accounts set up to manipulate political sentiment. Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have spent much of their time since then fighting multiple political and ethical fires around the world. Yet that seemed to have had only minimal impact on Facebook's financial performance. There has been a marked slowdown in user growth, especially in developed markets, but advertising revenues continue to soar. For 2019, revenues jumped by another 27% to $70.7bn. However, net income fell 16% to $18.5bn as a result of heavy investment in privacy and security measures, regulatory penalties and rising legal costs.
Capsule checked 21st September 2018
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Adbrands Account Assignments track account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Sep 2020: "More Questions, More Answers". Keen to make amends for the chaos caused when it allowed Cambridge Analytica to game its system in 2016, Facebook is rolling out a mammoth campaign to encourage safe voting in the upcoming US election, and eliminate disinformation. This spot from Droga5 does a fine job of delivering the message without being too serious or partisan; it actually makes voting look like fun, and not just everyone's social responsibility.
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Aug 2020: Facebook's chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio announced his resignation after just two years in his role. His successor has not yet been named. "This has been a challenging year for us all," he said in a statement posted on LinkedIn. "Given the historical inflection point we are in regarding racial justice, I have decided to dedicate 100% of my time to diversity, inclusion and equity. Though these issues have been core to my personal purpose and my work for many years, I want to make them my sole focus. I will devote the next chapter of my professional life to helping companies and agencies in the marketing and advertising industries accelerate their transformation and to drive holistic and profound change." His statement also acknowledged that Facebook itself still has work to do in addressing its own internal troubles. "As the company evolves, striking the right balance between preserving freedom of speech and eliminating hateful speech on the platforms is a generation-defining question that must continue to be addressed. I know the company and its leadership agree on the centrality of this important task."
Adbrands Daily Update 29th Jun 2020: Facebook is suffering an unprecedented boycott by a growing host of leading advertisers who argue the brand is not doing enough to block messages of hate speech across its platform in the run-up to the US election. Unilever, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Starbucks, Levi's, Hershey's, Beam Suntory, Honda and Diageo have all suspended advertising in the US on the social giant - and also Instagram - for at least the next month. In fact, Unilever is blocking both Facebook (and Instagram) and also Twitter until at least the end of the year. This is despite Facebook's announcement last week that it will begin labeling posts that violate its rules. Facebook says it is also introducing technology to block voter disinformation and shield immigrants from ads that depict them as inferior. Yet civil rights groups argue that none of these measures go far enough to prevent the manipulation of social media seen during the 2016 election. "We have been down this road before with Facebook," said representatives of StopHateForProfit, a coalition of different pressure groups including the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, Sleeping Giants and others. "They have made apologies in the past. They have taken meager steps after each catastrophe where their platform played a part. But this has to end now." [Updated: Many more advertisers joined the boycott during the course of the week. By mid-week, the roll-call of advertisers opting-out of Facebook either just for July or through the rest of the year included many of the world's biggest global spenders including Kimberly-Clark, Mars, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, Volkswagen Group, Target, Constellation Brands, Clorox, ConAgra, HP, Adidas and Ford. Despite the combined clout of these A-list marketers, their boycott is unlikely to have any serious impact on Facebook financially. The vast majority of Facebook's ad revenues comes not from the top 200 of the world's biggest advertisers but from the other almost-8,000 small and medium-sized businesses who spend money on targeted marketing on the site. That was reflected in Facebook's stock price, which is down only marginally from the record highs it reached in June.]
Adbrands Daily Update 1st Jun 2020: "Rays of Sunshine". The Facebook advertising assault continues. Late last year the social media giant signed up a collection of great agencies to promote its various separate properties, and the results of that process have been arriving by drip feed over the past few days. Last week saw spots for Facebook Groups and Facebook Messenger; here's a gorgeous and timely piece of work from Brazilian powerhouse AlmapBBDO for WhatsApp, illustrating the daily exchange of photo messages between a mother and daughter, both in lockdown in their separate homes. According to AlmapBBDO creative director Pedro Corbett "We focused on stories of people alone at their homes and that didn't call for much elaborate production, only relying on what was already there to make the movie as realistic as possible. Although the production budget was not big, the quality has been the best possible. It is surprising how the hardest times can bring out the best solutions." The whole thing is very much a family affair, with everyone involved working with the resources at hand at home. Director duo the Fridman Sisters cast their own mother; her daughter is played by the wife of director of photography Pierre de Kerchove.
Adbrands Daily Update 19th May 2020: "Pictures". Two Facebook ads in two days? Seriously? Well, yes - sorry about that - but they're both excellent and are not to be overlooked. Taking full advantage of global lockdown, Facebook has rushed out not only its Zoom-killer Messenger Rooms, but also a rather fine ad for it, a joint production between inhouse unit Creative X, appointed agency Leo Burnett and also the inimitable Gondry brothers. Director Michel Gondry is already something of an industry legend, renowned for his particular style of visual trickery, here aided and abetted by his less well-known but equally talented brother Olivier. And if all that creative firepower wasn't already enough, flavour of the year Lizzo has been roped in to record her own version of Beatles classic All Together Now especially for the ad. Clearly Facebook means business here.
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