23 August 2019
Facebook's Erin Hunter says the company is in talks with brand marketers about potential partnerships in Greater China. Photo: HKEJ
Facebook's Erin Hunter says the company is in talks with brand marketers about potential partnerships in Greater China. Photo: HKEJ

Mix, match & on the move: The Facebook formula for mobile ads

Erin Hunter is looking for the answer to the big question Mark Zuckerberg is asking. As Facebook’s global head of marketing for fast-moving consumer goods, part of Hunter’s job is to work out ways ads for these products can be channeled seamlessly into the feeds of the social network’s 1.23 billion users.

It’s a quest that extends to the Greater China region where the company is in talks with brand marketers about potential partnerships.  

The key to cracking the relevance code is deploying the right data partners and analytical tools to mine Facebook’s user information — such as each account holder’s “likes” — for target audiences for advertisers. 

“What you will see are the ads that are relevant to you based on who you are,” Hunter told EJ Insight.

“If the advertisers are doing that right, it is not going to feel intrusive but hopefully it will add to your experience.

“I am a female in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic. People might assume that I have two kids at home and I would make my purchasing decisions about the household and what to have for dinner. But the reality is none of them is true because my husband does all that and we don’t have kids.

“The thing I am interested in is a motorcycle…I would prefer to see an ad about helmets than other products.”

Like the segment she promotes, Hunter is a fast mover. She holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest streamlined motorcycle speed by a female rider, clocking up 229.92 kilometers per hour three years ago on a salt flat in Utah. She’s also risen as an expert in marketing consumer packaged goods, holding positions previously at comScore, Marketing Management Analytics and Procter & Gamble.

On the go

Now Hunter’s task is to advance Facebook’s mobile strategy in Greater China, matching users with sellers of consumer packaged goods like beauty and baby products, alcohol, and food and beverages. These goods are typically low-price, high-volume and frequent purchases at grocery and convenience stores.

In all, brand marketers spent HK$5.89 billion (US$755 million) on advertising for consumer packaged goods in Hong Kong last year, accounting for about a quarter of marketing expenses for all categories, according to media agency Universal McCann Hong Kong.

More than a third of the money spent advertising consumer packaged goods went on promoting cosmetics and skincare products, while toiletries and household products soaked up 24.63 percent, beverages 20.25 percent and food 17.92 percent. Wine, beer, whisky and liquor products, which have ad restrictions on some media channels, accounted for the remaining 2.59 percent. 

Universal McCann insights director Craig Harvey said the total advertising market in Hong Kong expanded by 8 percent in 2013, with internet spending growing by 26 percent and outlays on mobile promotions more than quadrupling. “As digital media becomes more entrenched in our everyday life, we continue to expect an increase in spend going into these channels,” Harvey said.

And that’s where Facebook comes in. The network may be banned on the mainland but it still has 4.3 million monthly active users in Hong Kong and 15 million in Taiwan, making the Greater China region “very important for these consumer goods, as well as for Facebook”, according to Hunter. 

Those consumers are increasingly reaching for their mobile phones and devices throughout the day, a trend brand marketers will definitely pick up on, she said.

“Brand marketers understand where the consumers are going and how they are spending their time … we have 80 to 82 percent reach of consumers in the region here. That means we can get advertisers in front of those consumers,” Hunter said. 

In the mix

To that end, Facebook is positioning itself as an additional rather than a replacement advertising channel for brand marketers who are more used to promoting their products through traditional avenues such as newspapers and TV. The social network is a new addition to the advertising eco-system for consumer packaged goods but the sector has a history of embracing fresh promotional concepts.   

“When television was first launched, there was only radio advertising. Brand marketers in the consumer packaged goods industry were actually the first ones that understood the power of television and they created the soap opera, which was sponsored content for them to reach people,” she said.

“I am not going to ask the advertisers to ‘throw away everything you have done in the last 150 years of [newspaper ad] history’… Instead, as they follow their consumers, who are increasingly using our platform, we will give them the tools to be able to complement their entire media mix.” 

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]


Chief reporter at EJ Insight

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