Aishwarya Ramesh

“Brands need to think about storytelling differently”- Facebook’s Siddharth Banerjee

The digital medium is one of the most important consumer touch points of today. However, its biggest shortfall — for the advertisers — is that consumer attention spans are now shorter than ever. Ad filmmakers need to reorient themselves to account for consumer attention spans, and Facebook’s initiative – Thumbstoppers is testament to that need. Facebook held its inaugural Thumbstoppers Summit in Mumbai recently and the focus of the Thumbstoppers initiative was content creation and storytelling in a span of 10 seconds.

“The objective of Facebook Thumbstoppers is essentially to get the conversation started and build capabilities in terms of storytelling on mobile. To that extent, we don’t want our agency partners to take the standard approach of squeezing a 30 second film into a 10 second edit. What we’re calling for, is for agency partners and brand owners to think about storytelling on the mobile screen as different from storytelling on a large screen such as TV,” Siddharth Banerjee, director – Facebook India, said, on the sidelines of the Summit. The Thumbstoppers Summit aimed to be an industry event that saw participation from employees of creative agencies, production houses and from brand owners and organisations.

“In order for agency partners and brand owners to feel comfortable to handle the tools and get the required training to handle them; we conducted joint creative workshops to provide collaborative training across 46 agencies over the last couple of quarters. The first half of Thumbstoppers so far has been all about collaborative work. In the second half, you may see roundtables or case study presentations or interviews as a part of the Thumbstoppers initiative. We want to initiate a behaviour change from creating for television to creating video communications for mobile phones,” Banerjee shared.

He believes that Thumbstoppers will enable creative uses of the platform — be it through stories or interactive ads. “There are lots of use cases for brands on the platform, so it’s important to build your skills and muscles on short format video storytelling, irrespective of what your field of expertise is,” he informed.

Addressing the short attention spans that digital-first users tend to have, Banerjee said, “Regardless of attention spans, a good brand is always built on a strong promise or proposition based on an authentic product truth. The basics will not change, no matter how many years go by. The best form of communication is word-of-mouth. Facebook and Instagram these days allow more brands to get discovered, hence creating visibility.”

According to Banerjee, the Facebook family of apps can offer brands what he calls ‘full funnel solutions’ that begin the journey at brand visibility, progress to brand consideration and end at the purchase of the product. “Facebook has scale, ad units and solutions that enable a brand to utilise the platform to effectively engage with consumers, even at shorter durations,” he mentioned.

Banerjee divulged that measurement solutions are paramount at Facebook. “We have supported AC Nielsen’s tool called CMM which stands for custom mix modelling. It’s all about dynamic real-time measurement of the money that you put on various platforms and the sales you get as a result of it,” he said.

His appeal to friends from creative agencies and fellow marketers is to have a deep sense of curiosity about what’s happening in technology. “A lot of my marketing friends have a deep sense of curiosity of what is happening in the lives of consumers, people look for consumer insights, habits, and so on. It’s important that they equip themselves with the latest in terms of thinking, whether it is mobile, media planning or measurement. That’s why Facebook is doing these industry ecosystem engagements, such as Thumbstoppers,” he explained.

Banerjee swears by three marketing insights from his career (he has previously worked at Vodafone as executive vice-president – marketing and at Unilever as the country managing director), “The first insight never changes — it stays constant like a lighthouse — and that is the respect for the consumer. Marketers need to spend time in terms of understanding and decoding their consumer. The second insight, which I bring into Facebook is that of ecosystem partnerships. We believe that there are certain things can be solved when we come together, as an industry and as a community. So it's about partnerships and building ecosystems of like-minded people and organisations,” he said.

The third insight he talked about was the focus on measurement, “What gets tracked and measured ultimately becomes our way to then work even closely and deeply with our partners. So, I have a deep respect for measurement and also a lot of work that we do internally is around measurement. Measurement builds confidence and credibility for a brand to try and experiment with the way they create content,” Banerjee signed off.