Ten days ago, the world's largest social networking platform, Facebook, turned 14. In September 2006, it made its Indian debut as a result of going global. In these 11-odd years, the company has now, for the first time, launched a massive reach-consumer campaign solely for India.
Facebook's growth in this country has been the stuff dreams are made of - out of the two billion users it boasts, India is at 217 million users, is its second largest market. The only times we saw official Facebook communication with India was when it wanted to push its internet.org agenda and again, when it targeted women Android users. So why the huge brand promotion now, that too, across traditional mediums like television, newspapers and OOH?
A quick look at the global scenario first; according to research firm eMarketer's just-released forecast on social network usage, globally, Facebook is losing younger users at an even faster pace than previously expected; add to that its struggle with fake news.
Despite attempts by Facebook-owned Instagram to woo users, global experts, feel that Snapchat, owned by Snap Inc, holds a certain advantage with millennials who are more loyal to its disappearing messages and filters. The report also says that this year, Facebook usage, in the under-12 segment, will drop by 9.3 percent, while the 12-to-17 and 18-to-24 age brackets will see a 5 per cent drop. Also, Instagram will add 1.6 million Americans under 25, while photo-sharing app Snapchat will add 1.9 million in that age group says eMarketer.
Coming back to its new push for India, the new ads are part of a campaign called 'Live what you Love', the purpose of which is to 'share inspiring stories from the community about a multifaceted, diverse range of individuals and how they have used Facebook in meaningful ways to do things that matter to them.' The films show individuals expressing themselves freely across everyday situations.
The campaign covers outdoor, TV, print, online, including Facebook, and cinema. There are a total of four films, two of which - 'Sunny' and Neha' - are out, the latter currently at 10 million plus views.
While Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam is the creative agency behind this campaign, GroupM's Mindshare is Facebook's official media agency in India. Sources at WPP's outdoor arm, Kinetic Worldwide (it has executed the outdoor campaign) mention that the OOH part covers four cities - Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad.
'Do your thing, Be yourself' seems to be the go-to theme among many brands - while most would expect Facebook to be more disruptive, does it have a reason to play safe?
All in all, does Facebook really need this kind of promotion, and are the creatives on point? We ask our experts:
Sidharth Shukla, Head OgilvyOne North, India
I like both the videos for the most part; they feel young, pacy and fairly contemporary as well. However, the disconnect in my head is that clearly, the videos are very urban - as the lifestyles depicted reflect that, but as far as urban India goes, Facebook is an everyday word, while the new users are going to come from smaller towns for which the creatives come down on relatability.
If the need of the hour is to infuse growth in their user base, then I don't think these two films make the cut. If they are meant for the urban population, then as I mentioned earlier, I do like the manner in which they have come out; however, I would tend to disagree on the insight - the entire aspect of Live what you Love - I don't think is fresh. This is one of the founding behaviours which led to them having seen so much success; the films articulate it nicely, but what is it supposed to get me to do?
Sambit Mohanty, National Creative Director, JWT India
The ads give us a peep into the lives of some 'interesting/multidimensional' characters getting to live life on their own terms and following their passions. But the brand role is superficial in these multi-faceted lives. That is, there needs to be a more compelling reason why one should be using Facebook to show others to 'Live what I Love'.
If recruitment is the goal Facebook is chasing, the outdoor campaign does the work for the brand in a far superior manner to the films.
Harjot Narang, President DentsuOne
On the timing: The campaign seems to be in a time where the change in the algorithm and its impact on the daily feed of their consumers is being discussed all around. Speed is always of the essence in reaching out to your audience in such a scenario because (a) In tech, due to shorter adoption speeds and consumer life cycles, losing time implies losing a lot in terms of customers and confidence; (b) Competitive environment: Multiple innovators are constantly knocking at the consumers' door every day; and (c) For a brand like Facebook, the adage - "the larger they are, the harder they fall" is a real danger.
Given the above, it's prudent that Facebook has moved into a wide reach consumer engagement campaign with quick and big (though expensive) reach media for the first time.
On Creative: The videos seem to be an attempt to connect with millennials by talking like them instead of to them; asking them to live on their own terms like they want to and actually do. However, while doing so, they seem to lose the relevance of Facebook within this and seem to portray it as a display board of their life instead of a meaningful social-connection-creator that it should be seen as, especially in the current context.
The print and outdoor campaign that encourages users to connect with like-minded people/groups, in the current context, is more apt to reconnect users with what they love most about Facebook.