Call me, maybe: Facebook embraces old-school media buying

Facebook really is embracing the TV way of advertising, even embracing the old-school way of doing business: by phone.

Facebook’s new initiative to measure audiences like TV — using ratings — already was a throwback to the traditional ways of the industry, and the ability to buy over the phone is another old-fashioned nod. The only way to buy ratings points is over the phone or by e-mail.

Facebook is known for its self-serve, automated ad ecosystem, and the rest of the industry is trying to match that technological sophistication with targeting and measurements. That’s why it surprised some of the most digitally minded advertisers that Facebook would embrace the phone as a way of doing business.

“It’s great they’re making orders more accessible. If it’s more convenient for some to place an order, great,” said David Berkowitz, CMO at agency MRY. “This is the problem with digital-native folks like me – it’s so foreign to how we’re used to things getting done.”

Facebook is selling ads through its Target Rating Points program in this manner, which it just launched at Advertising Week. The idea is to let its 2.5 million advertisers buy audiences in a way they are accustomed to through television, with rating points.

Enabling orders over the phone could prove attractive to a large portion of the advertising base that are small businesses, used to calling directly for support placing orders.

“It definitely does sound old school,” said Doug Neil, head of digital marketing at Universal Pictures, which is owned by NBCUniversal. “I could see it having value for smaller companies who want to talk to someone about buying ads.”

Graham Mudd, Facebook’s director of monetization product marketing, said that when building the ratings option for buying ads, clients asked for the ability to order by phone and e-mail.

“Through many conversations with TV buyers, we heard that they’d like buy TRPs through relationships with our client partners via phone and email,” Mudd said in an e-mailed statement. “If TV buyers would prefer to buy TRP through our interfaces, we’ll certainly listen to that feedback. At our core we’re a partner company, and we want to provide the flexibility to allow for all kinds of buying methods and allow for a currency that translates across TV and Facebook.”

Starcom Mediavest was a close partner with Facebook testing the Target Rating Point system and used it for clients like Heineken. Mediavest’s chief operating officer Sarah Kramer said that the embrace of ratings as a measurement was kind of a “throwback,” but it’s just one piece of the offering.

“I think about it as ‘and and,’” Kramer said, referring to the fact that Facebook offers the new ratings on top of its other measurement and targeting capabilities. “If we were only delivering TRPs and reach, we wouldn’t know the business impact, but now we have reach, we have TRPs, we have relevancy, engagement and business outcomes.”

Some industry players were quick to note that plenty of business is still personal in the ad game, even as more TV buyers embrace digital methods.

“While most big brands and agencies have moved toward some method of digital buying for TV, there is still plenty of wheeling and dealing being done over the phone for that one-to-one connection,” said Jenny Schauer, vp and director of media at DigitasLBi, by e-mail. “Especially when it comes to Facebook’s self-service tool, placing buys digitally can be intimidating to a linear buyer, so the option to reserve via phone brings some familiarity back to the process.”

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