Facebook's Moment: Ready or Not, the Time Is Now

  |  May 21, 2012   |  Comments

Facebook must now grow into the promise the platform offers for the benefit of all.

There is no shortage of Facebook pontificating at the moment. Most of the coverage seems to reside in the hype cycle's trough of disillusionment about whether Facebook is worth the $100 billion-plus valuation it aims to achieve once it rings the NASDAQ bell from 1 Hacker Way. From the analysis of GM's curiously timed declaration that it would no longer buy paid media on the social platform, due to ineffectiveness, to the ongoing comparisons to Google's IPO, and the growing cries about a new tech bubble - everyone seems to be an armchair "Mad Money" contributor.

Something seemingly lost in the analysis is that Facebook is here, not entirely because it wants to be, but because it has to be. Whether or not Facebook is ready to be a public company (with Mark Zuckerberg bucking the "Wall Street Way" for his "Hacker Way" culture) has been rendered irrelevant. The Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory guidelines declare that Facebook must go public. Once "The Book" reached a threshold of private shares issued along with more than 500 private shareholders and requirement to file public financials, the die was cast and there was only one option - to become a publicly traded company.

By all accounts, Mark Zuckerberg is focused on one overarching objective: to maintain the Facebook mission. To be realized, that mission does not necessarily require advertising, and while Facebook understands the financial benefits, it has shown no more interest than Google did originally in evolving away from its core to be an advertising platform above all. But, it's still early days.

Back in 2004, when Google went public, the commentary focused on it being a one-trick pony. Everyone readily acknowledged that it was a really good trick, but people questioned where it would go from there. Almost a decade later, it's grown to become the most wide-reaching digital company ever seen. Facebook's advertising model is not what Google advanced in search, so what people have to trade on today is reach and scale more so than a fully realized and refined ad platform built on consumer insights.

In Facebook, we are looking at a rapidly maturing, but still not quite ready for the moment company. Forget for a second what GM has stated, or what analysts suggest and realize - that this moment is one that Facebook is experiencing because of the system as much as its own aspirations. That's not to say Facebook will never evolve to be the company it can be, but merely to acknowledge that for now, all comparisons and evaluations are done off a highly dynamic and changing platform.

The future state of media will most certainly be more mobile and the open graph on which Facebook resides will play a large role as well. What Facebook is really worth is as elusive as what a Facebook fan is worth to most brands today. But just like the extensive efforts brands and agencies are undertaking to quantify the worth of Facebook investments, the real value and offering from Facebook will be shaped over time.

For both brands and Facebook, the full realization of value is not yet here. However, this moment is, and Facebook must now grow into the promise the platform offers for the benefit of all.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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