Building a Likable Partnership

Facebook has launched its first effort in an emerging focus area of developing deeper relationships with advertising agencies. The Facebook Studio concept is designed to showcase the creative and diverse experiences that are facilitated on the social platform. The program is a nice first attempt at bridging the gap that typically exists between media and publisher. It’s also a safe step because it gives creative agencies and social content developers an opportunity to put their best work on display in a Facebook-sanctioned environment. These are all positives for Facebook and a safe play to move into this territory.

What comes next will be the true measure of the Facebook/agency relationship. Over the last decade, I’ve served on virtually every agency council run by a search engine and have seen the myriad of attempts engines have tried to make to connect with both standalone agencies and search units inside traditional media and creative shops. Every council or agency relationship has a stated mission of improving the working partnership to provide better opportunities. These are opportunities for agencies and clients to voice their wishes and discuss new innovations that would be meaningful, and opportunities for the platform to incorporate that feedback and create new models for revenue generation or enhance existing products.

Well, that’s the stated goal. The reality is they are often as fulfilling as bi-partisan politics. Why? Because every council is driven by the sales arm of the organization with a guest appearance role by product engineering. Ultimately, the powers that drive these platforms, be it Google, Microsoft, or now Facebook, reside inside the engineering community that shapes innovation. And those individuals are either only included at random intervals, non-incentivized to incorporate this level of insight, or they simply hold “sales and agencies” in such disdain that the mere suggestion of collaboration draws a sneer and terse interaction. That leaves a sales team offering up the olive branch of peace and prosperity, and left to navigate into uncharted territory inside their own organization only to be met with an outcome that shows the council/partnership to be nothing more than a glorified sales effort with no real impact on bigger thought.

So, Facebook has made a fine first effort, but it’s an easy effort and will ultimately mean little for future development. What the company does now in structuring true agency teams will reveal if it has an appetite for input and collaboration or if it is putting lipstick on the pig and passing it off for something more than what it is – just another sales tactic. If Facebook wants agencies to be “fans,” then it’d be well-served by making product engineering an empowered and key component of this agency structure.

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