Why are so many consumers reacting badly to video game Facebook advertising? The social network's global director of gaming sales, Rick Kelley, tells MCV why publishers ought to cover up their salacious stars...
At London Games Conference, you described Facebook as being a personal newspaper. What did you mean?
Your experience on Facebook will be very different to mine, because it is the content you have chosen to friend or follow. Your friends are different to mine. The things that you have liked and are following are different to mine. So the content you get is for you; all the news you are seeing, in the palm of your hand, is unique to you.
You also said on stage that video games within Facebook is treated as its own region. How does that work?
We have a North America region, EMEA and APAC. But the gaming business is not part of those regions; it has been pulled out and centralised.
It is obviously a huge part of Facebook's business. Games are different for a couple of reasons.
First, we have a product; we are inviting developers to build on our site so that they can help us create a sticky environment and get people coming back to Facebook more frequently. So the partnership we have with the team that recruits developers to make games for Facebook is quite tight.
Secondly, when you look at the games themselves, the advertising products that we need to build differ – whether it's mobile app-install ads, or ads where, for example, if you buy virtual goods on a Facebook game, we can show you a virtual goods ad for that game. Those types of products that we are building for the developer community are unique to our business. So my relationship with our engineering team and our platform partnerships team is much tighter than it is for other product categories, like autos or travel, where they may not have those customisable advertising needs.
Another reason is that these video game advertisers are global. You might be King.com, but you're not looking for a UK audience just because you're located here; you want to reach the world. So our team would work with you to launch global campaigns. That's different than if you're [global firm behind the likes of Fairy Liquid and Gillette] Procter & Gamble in the UK, because if you're advertising on Facebook you are still looking to target a UK audience. Our team in games thinks a little bit more about how we can, for instance, take what Ubisoft is doing in the US and apply that to Ubisoft in France etc. We try and consolidate a lot of those efforts.
PlayStation community manager Sarah Wellock was on stage before you. She said she wasn't getting organic and free distribution as much now as she did in the past. She suggested Facebook changed their policy. What's happened?
Well, we haven't changed our policies – that's a misunderstanding.
There are a couple of things here. Number one: the amount of content that is out there is doubling every 18 to 24-months, but your ability – the time you have – to consume it is pretty static. So you now have all this content, all these new games and articles and so forth, but only so much of it can be consumed on a place like Facebook. So what we try and do is deliver to people the most interesting and relevant content for them, based on what they like, what they have engaged with and the things their friends have engaged with.
"The first thing we've noticed is that there are a lot of
images being used in gaming ads that are risqu, or
show scantily-clad women. That is not working. That
might generate a click, but for every click that that
generates, people are X-ing out of it, suggesting they
don't want to see it any longer. That means to surface
that type of ad in the newsfeed, you have to over-
compensate with money. Yes, we can still surface
your risqu ad, but you will have to pay more in
order to compensate for the people that are saying
they don't want to see it."
Rick Kelley - Global Director of Gaming Sales,Facebook
Now, all of this content that is being created; some of it is better than others, some of it is quite commercial, or uninteresting. So we are de-prioritising that and not surfacing that on people's news feeds as much as we are, say, the John Lewis penguin Christmas advert. John Lewis paid for some of it, but the organic distribution of an ad like that was really great on Facebook because it was interesting and what people wanted. If you're not producing good content, we will dial down the distribution of it.
One thing that surprised me was when you said that video game advertising has the lowest performing ads – based on consumer reaction – than any other industry out there. What are publishers doing wrong?
We are doing a lot of homework to figure this out.
The first thing we've noticed is that there are a lot of images being used in gaming ads that are risqu, or show scantily-clad women. That is not working. That might generate a click, but for every click that that generates, people are X-ing out of it, suggesting they don't want to see it any longer. That means to surface that type of ad in the newsfeed, you have to over-compensate with money. Yes, we can still surface your risqu ad, but you will have to pay more in order to compensate for the people that are saying they don't want to see it.
The industry needs to think about the images they are putting in front of people, and make sure they are not offensive or sexually explicit. We are trying to educate people to not do that so much.
It's also about how frequently publishers and developers are refreshing ads. Are they just taking a screen shot from the game and launching it in the newsfeed, thinking that's an engaging piece of content? Because it's not. It needs to be more customisable and engaging. Like what EA did with Madden (see Mad Marketing).
How are you educating publishers about doing Facebook advertising properly?
For 2015 we have invested in creative heads specific to the games industry, to work with developers to think about how they communicate with our audience. They are dedicated folks that all come from creative agency backgrounds, and will specifically work with games developers to build bespoke advertising campaigns or to simply say: ‘You know what? These images work better in Asia versus Europe versus North America.' These people will help developers think about factors like the colours they are using and the amount of text that is in the ad. That is our investment back into the games community.
Analyst Nick Parker said at LGC that there's been a lot more advertising from the likes of King and Supercell, while traditional publishers appear to be reducing their activity. How can these firms keep up with mobile?
In some ways, the console business has to think about how to organise itself in a more nimble way.
Take King, for example; they have one office and one team that buys for the globe. They are starting to think about localised offices in Japan and Korea, and content creation on a local level is very important – at least in terms of ads that speak to a local audience. But your centralised buying, planning and execution can happen centrally. When you think of console advertisers, all the countries have their own P&Ls and they're all trying to figure out how to market the game in their local environment and not necessarily taking advantage of the practices that companies like King are using.
One of the things that we are starting to do for these console developers is have a single-point of contact within Facebook that is working with the German team, the Italian team, the North American team... bringing them together and making sure we are the conduit where the best practices are being shared. Sometimes we assume there is a lot of communication going back and forth between publisher offices, but it's not necessarily the case.
The reason mobile developers do so much is because mobile app install ads just work so well. You discover it in the newsfeed, then you download it and play it right there. It's up to us to ask the console developer what their objectives are. Is it to drive people to GAME? Is to drive pre-orders? Create awareness?