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"Agencies are critical partners for Facebook": Vidyadhar Kale, Agency Head, Facebook India

A quick interview with Vidyadhar Kale, agency head, Facebook India, about Facebook's media and creative agency partners, the performance of Facebook Blueprint (Facebook's e-learning programme for marketers) in India, Facebook's products for advertisers, the need for businesses to shift focus to mobile, and more.

Kale, who now leads agency relationships for Facebook India, has worked with media buying agencies like Maxus, Starcom and Mediacom, in the past.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

Over the years, how has your relationship with your agency partners evolved? What kind of challenges do they face?

Agencies are critical partners for Facebook.

Our agency engagement is based on education, business, and initiatives. Building the client's business is a shared pursuit and we will partner with agencies to deliver on that front. Education is an ongoing effort and we'll continue to develop courses for this. We will also continue to work with agencies to build new advertising solutions.

Consumers have changed the way businesses think about mobile. This massive shift in behaviour has challenged us all to re-think the solutions we build and the experiences we deliver.

Consumers have shifted to mobile, but businesses are still making that shift. Our agency partners are critical in this transformation.

When Facebook builds new ad products like Canvas and Slideshow, we do so with the help of the agency community. We want to ensure that the new advertising solutions we build will add value for people and also help businesses grow.

We also work on live briefs, so that we can help agencies and brands create better experiences on Facebook, experiences that will deliver better results. We recently worked with Dentsu Aegis Network to drive a brand campaign for a leading BFSI client, which saw a 15 per cent increase in brand awareness.

Additionally, we have created a series of training programmes and modules to ensure all businesses have new information and skills.

How many agencies do you work with currently? Are there separate programmes for your creative and media agencies?

We work with all agencies in India. We have built a variety of programmes for our creative and media agency partners.

Our Creative Shop teams (teams within Facebook that analyse the performance of creative work on Facebook) build workshops for the creative community and hold open sessions with our media partners, to share and discuss examples of the best work on Facebook and Instagram.

We recently expanded the India Client Council to include creative agencies. So now, our creative and media agency partners are well-represented in our India Client Council. It's a forum that brings together the most influential marketing minds in the country to co-create the future of marketing.

Tell us more about Facebook Blueprint, your recently launched e-learning programme for marketers...

The reception for Facebook Blueprint (an education programme that trains agencies, partners, and marketers on how to use Facebook, so they can create better campaigns that drive business result) has been strong. Since March 2015, over 1,75,000 people have participated. We've seen over 5,00,000 course enrollments. India ranks as the second-largest country signing onto Blueprint, after the US. It is followed by Egypt, Brazil, and the UK.

The Blueprint programme features 34 online courses categorised under sections such as targetting, buying, campaign optimisation, insight, and Instagram. Blueprint allows you to chart your own learning path based on your role and is available on mobile; the mobile site has been re-designed and is now compatible with 2G and 3G connections.

We will extend Facebook Blueprint to agencies through a certification course that will help media planners understand the platform better.

How do you reach out to agencies? What is your strategy like?

It's a combination of face-to-face conversations, field education, events, training workshops, newsletters, and other initiatives.

Our 'Ambassador Programme' recognises agency partners who are change-agents within their organisations and the industry. Through this programme, our agency partners can test our solutions and give us crucial feedback. Our products are built with the agency community; we value their perspective.

We also partner with agencies on strategic initiatives. For example, we launched Brand Bazaar, a FMCG Forum, in Mumbai and Gurgaon, in association with GroupM, to re-think the possibilities of the digital medium for brands in the FMCG category. Our 'Financial Services Forum', hosted along with Publicis, was another such initiative for brands in the banking, financial services, and insurance categories.

These initiatives are especially relevant in the context of the digital revolution that the country is undergoing.

What kinds of product categories are best suited to leverage Facebook as it stands today?

Facebook has over three million active advertisers across every vertical.

We have highly effective cross category, cross objective, and cross audience segment solutions available to drive our clients' businesses. Facebook's ad products help brands with several objectives like awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty.

Recently, realty firm Tata Housing sold 250 flats worth over Rs 100 crore for its housing project at Goa. This was done in partnership with IPG Mediabrands, exclusively on Facebook.

We also worked very closely with ZenithOptimedia for Nestlé Kit Kat. It was one of the first Instagram campaigns in India where we saw an astounding lift of 42 per cent in ad recall, a six point increase in message association and a 10 point increase in message association, among the 15 to 17 year-old consumer.

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