Sheryl Sandberg & Katie Couric On Thriving Amidst Seismic Platform Shifts
At IAB's MIXX conference in New York, media leaders have a conversation about their common ground.
It’s a mobile world, and both Katie Couric and Sheryl Sandberg are doing their best to help their companies adapt.
Couric and Sandberg, two of the top executives in the media-industrial complex, kicked off the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s MIXX conference today in New York with a discussion exploring that common ground.
Both are leading businesses trying to manage major shifts in consumer platform habits, from television to digital media for Couric, who left a 30-year television career to become Yahoo News’ global anchor in June, and from desktop to mobile for Sandberg, chief operating office of Facebook.
“People are obsessed with their phones,” Sandberg said.
“79% of Americans will put their phones down less than two hours a day, and I saw Arianna Huffington say on John Stewart that 20% of Americans are using their phones during sex. I’m not saying it’s true. I’m just I’m saying I saw it on TV and everything you see on TV is accurate, right?”
Well, there’s no doubt that mobile explosion has forced a major shift for Facebook, which 2 1/2 years ago didn’t serve mobile ads. Now mobile advertising accounts for 62% of the social network’s total advertising revenue.
Couric’s adjustment also has been extreme, going from depending on attracting eyeballs for appointment network television, now “an antiquated notion,” she said, to experimenting with different video strategies, short and long form, explainers and Q&As.
And as the length of stories on mainstream television news shrinks, Couric believes she can stretch out with longer interviews. It’s a work in progress, trying to figure out what the audience prefers, but Couric believes her team at Yahoo News is on the right track.
“I feel like I’m doing intelligent, elevated content,” Couric said. “And I’m able to do it in a myriad of ways and that’s really exciting for me.”
While Couric is still experimenting, Sandberg’s Facebook is much closer to cracking the code in its desktop to mobile transition.
And video has been a key to that. Repeating the stat that Facebook now gets more than 1 billion video views a day, Sandberg said the format gives marketers a forum for creativity that hasn’t been there with typical search and display ads. “For example,” she said, “during the World Cup, McDonald’s was able to produce clever reenactments of the best plays of the day using animated french fries and distribute the videos on Facebook the next day.”
“The nice thing about doing things on mobile is you get immediate feedback,” Sandberg said. “… We can tell you x percent of people clicked right past your ad. or hey, people are watching this, x percent of people watched your ad and then you can make your ads more relevant.”
And Facebook’s ability to serve relevant ads stands to get stronger with today’s launch of its Atlas platform.
Atlas will allow advertisers to target Facebook’s 1.3 billion active users when they aren’t on Facebook, an ability seen as a way to cut into Google’s lead as the dominant digital ad seller. Atlas takes advantage of Facebook’s real name and preference data, relying less on cookies (nearly useless for targeting mobile users).
It’s a distinct advantage, considering Sandberg said 40% of digital ads targeting age and gender aren’t reaching their intended targets.
“What Atlas enables us to do and Facebook really focuses on is getting the right message to the right person at the right time,” she said, “so that it’s more relevant for consumers and has better results for marketers.”
Couric asked Sandberg how Facebook is dealing with privacy issues and the fact that many people say they don’t want their online activity to be targeted. Sandberg said that Facebook doesn’t share any personal data with marketers and that Facebook users can opt out of the aggregated targeting that powers the ad engine. The key, Sandberg said, is to provide relevant ads “in a privacy protected way.”
“If I get an ad for a movie that I want and think it’s done without telling anyone who I was, that’s great,” she said. “If I think it was done by giving out my personal and private information, that’s creepy.
“So, very clear, Atlas does not tell marketers who you are Facebook does not tell marketers who you are. We use our technology to give back aggregate reporting in a privacy protected way. Because trust has to be a cornerstone of our business for people to keep sharing on Facebook.”