Interpublic Teams with Facebook

The Interpublic Group and Facebook have struck a strategic partnership, with Interpublic helping to shape the college-focused social network’s marketing programs in exchange for an investment that gives it a 0.5-percent stake in Facebook.

“The strategic partnership will give us access to the youth market and a platform from which to learn about the dynamics of social networks and participate in this increasingly important medium,” Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of Interpublic, said in a statement.

Interpublic clients will participate in Facebook’s existing online advertising programs, and will help shape pilot programs involving sponsorships, consumer research and content creation.

“Our clients are increasingly asking us to look outside the traditional advertising box of television, print and radio. Facebook offers unique access to a tough-to-reach audience — young consumers who control how and when they interact with media,” said Interpublic spokesman Tom Cunningham. “Forming a strategic partnership allows us to work alongside Facebook to uncover innovative ways for our clients to interact with these consumers instead of simply buying banner ads.”

Having a long-term commitment to Facebook allows Interpublic to help craft fully customizable ad models for its clients, instead of relying on mechanisms others have come up with, Cunningham said.

Facebook has an established social network targeting university students in the U.S., more than 65 percent of which have Facebook profiles. The company recently began making inroads into high schools as well. That’s a key, but hard to reach, audience for many Interpublic clients, Roth said.

“Young and tech-savvy consumers are increasingly shunning traditional media vehicles and defining themselves and their community online. Facebook is among the top ten most-trafficked sites in the United States. More than 65-percent of all college students have made it an important part of their lives and it is gaining popularity with the high school market. That’s why this alignment makes so much sense for us,” he said.

Interpublic has recently undertaken a series of online initiatives to help its clients better understand and participate in the changes in consumer behavior being driven by digital media. The company recently launched an emerging media lab, a consumer experience practice, and a user-generated content practice.

The emerging media lab, launched in February, provides the agency and its clients a model of consumer media habits today and in the future. The Los Angeles site includes a digital living room, “smart kitchen,” conference room and unique brainstorming space. It features existing and emerging platforms, including media center PCs, IPTV receivers and mobile video devices in an environment that replicates the homes and offices where the technologies and devices will be used.

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