Brands have entered a renaissance, a period of unparalleled creativity which, if they embrace it, will deliver untold riches and help them live happily ever after. It sounds like a fairy-tale, but we all know those beloved yarns seldom come true. What is true, though, is that modern brand communications and old-fashioned fairy tales have something in common: the art of storytelling.
And storytelling, says head of Facebook Creative Shop for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Rob Newlan, offers brands the chance to use the power of social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to tell compelling stories, using technology and targeting, that resonate with audiences.
Newlan is in South Africa for the upcoming Loerie Awards. Not only is he a judge, but he will also deliver a talk at DStv’s seminar on creativity and run a much-anticipated hackathon for some creative young minds. South Africa (it is his third visit here) and Cape Town’s creative week fit into Facebook’s intention of “promoting positive engagement between brands and consumers in high-growth markets as well as helping people in Africa to connect with each other”. South Africa (11 million Facebook users) and Africa (100 million Facebook user, 80% on mobile devices) means the continent “is an exciting market for us”, Newlan says.
That kind of audience delivers unprecedented scale, but not only that, says Newlan, the enormous amounts of information contained in the data allows Facebook’s storytelling to reach the right people.
It’s this he will be discussing at the DStv seminar. Newlan will discuss how Facebook uses science, data and storytelling to engage with people, and deliver business results. “We will be highlighting how Facebook allows brands to create campaigns that allow them to make marketing personal, yet engage with people on a massive scale,” he says.
Newlan says most Facebook users in South Africa and Africa “come back on a daily basis”.
“Who are these people who engage with brands on Facebook?” he asks. “There is no universal ‘mom’. I don’t know a single mother who is the same as another. We use technology and data to differentiate these mothers so brands can tailor creative to reach the mother they want to reach. Brands must tell rich, engaging stories that fit them.” This enables brands to build a connection that captures the target market’s imagination, and compels them to act. Newlan believes mass media made advertising more impersonal but that “Facebook makes ‘big’ personal again”.
Newlan is almost evangelical in his belief that data is opening up immense creative opportunities. “This is my big passion,” he says. “We are living in a fantastic time as the creative opportunities afforded by data continue to grow. We can craft work and aim it directly at a target market, and we are gaining universal insights around groups of people using social media platforms. We are getting to know people better so we can craft work aimed at them. For agencies, this is an incredibly exciting time. But they no longer have six months to tailor campaigns. Now they have to craft campaigns fast and react quickly.”
Real-time marketing is a game changer, and one that doesn’t necessarily fit into existing agency models, he says.
Newlan is heading up Facebook’s first creative hackathon during Loeries week. Forty talented youngsters will join him in a quest to deliver on a real creative brief for the Loeries Creative Future Scholarship. “At Facebook we have a culture that believes ‘code wins arguments’. We can keep talking about ideas, but what we need to do is get great minds into a room to work on an idea and work on a solution. They must get their hands dirty,” he says. Facebook will also give an educational session in which award winning work will be showcased, and participants given a brief on latest developments from Facebook headquarters on tools and systems being developed specifically for Africa.
Facebook understands that mobile is where it’s happening. Newlan says, “Mobile isn’t a thing, it’s the thing.”
He’s also amazed at the power of Instagram, calling it a “very exciting product”. “It’s a platform where people can craft creative material for their communities. It’s a whole new form of visual communication that uses visual language to capture moments in time. Newlan says people are more proficient in using the platform more than brands, which are still grappling with how to make it work for them.
Newlan calls the current era of technological driven creativity the “launchpad” phase. “We’re living in a fantastic time,” he says. “It’s a young industry. Facebook is only 10 years old, and Google 15. The potential for creativity is boundless. It’s a renaissance, and we must step into it.”
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