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Cannes on Facebook

Cannes 2012: Facebookmania

BY Matt Williams

It’s not an understatement to suggest that Facebook has faced a difficult couple of weeks.

But at least it can take a little bit of comfort from the knowledge that, when it comes to the advertising industry, very few companies can prove to be as big a draw.

Delegates wanting to see the Cannes Lions seminar by Paul Adams, Facebook’s global head of design, were not only struggling to get into the lecture theatre itself today, but were even being turned away from the nearby Screening Rooms too.

Adams had come to Cannes to talk about the psychology and creativity of sharing, looking at how the web is changing the ways people interact, and what Facebook is doing to provide a new platform for it.

The social web, Adams said, is not built around content, it’s built around people. The web now allows us to know things about people before we’ve even met them, and it means that information about anyone and anything is available anywhere and anytime. Don’t believe him? Just look at Wikipedia, where a staggering 1,000 articles are added every single day.

Adams believes that the significance of this will mean ‘social’ as a term will soon be extinct. The social web is just going to become ‘the web’, social business will just be ‘business’ and a social campaign will just be ‘a campaign’.

The creative challenge, therefore, is to work out exactly how you aggregate all this information. Adams explained that while technology changes fast, people change slowly. Fundamentally, people are hardwired to turn to their networks of friends for advice and recommendations, not technology.

And it’s only when you’ve understood that people live in these ‘invisible networks’ of friends will you be able to understand how to identify and target the right people, and ensure that your ideas spread.  

When it comes to creating and implementing these ideas, Adams urged the audience to think of Facebook as a new type of creative canvas. “Too often when a new technology emerges, people think about existing media and apply it to the new medium,” he said.  

Alexander Graham Bell for instance originally saw the telephone as little more than a broadcasting device – a way of broadcasting concerts and speeches to a wider audience.

Cinemas were set up as a way of screening newscasts, rather than anything with a more interesting narrative.

Even the first ever TV ad, aired in 1941, was basically a print ad with a radio overlay – because that’s all people could comprehend.

So rather than go through that whole process again, Adams encouraged agencies to approach Facebook differently – don’t look at it as a new way of displaying what is effectively a TV ad or print ad, instead make social interaction a fundamental part of the creative brief, and base your creative ideas on real insight about social interaction. Get that story right, and then the rest – the design, the Facebook timeline etc – will follow.  


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