Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg admits advertising not a 'delightful experience' and says Mark Zuckerberg 'underestimated' as a leader

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has admitted that the platform has more to do in order to make its advertising a better experience.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions Festival, Sandberg also discussed the power of mobile and her view that people have underestimated founder Mark Zuckerber.

Sandberg began her segment by claiming that mobile was “bigger than even we thought or predicted” and described it as “incredibly powerful technology”.

She went on to highlight the access to information that it provided users with at all times, anywhere.

“That kind of access to information and that kind of technology behind human beings changes a lot and you can see what that does going forward - news on demand, content on demand, direct connections to people that you couldn’t have connected to before," she said.

This led her to admit that Facebook had made mistakes in not moving faster to recognise and adopt mobile, meaning that in the end it was forced to rebuild its native apps and platforms, built in HTML5. “That process was hard for us,” she added.

As for the opportunity mobile offered marketers, she said that the level of investment in mobile marketing was not yet near the level of spend that matched the statistic that people in the US spent a fifth of their time using mobile.

She also claimed that Facebook’s working relationship with agencies was growing and that as it aimed to provide its users with stories, the creative mattered all the more.

“When things went digital, people said that what mattered was the keyword and the algorithm rather than the creative. That’s not the kind of digital we are. Yes, we’re a tech company, but what people experience on their news feed are stories…we believe this is a great opportunity for storytelling.”

Sandberg also said that the process of rolling out advertising on Instagram would be "slow" and highlighted Facebook’s user base of 1.3 billion, 63 per cent of which return daily, as well as 200 million active users on Facebook Messenger.

Of advertising on Facebook Messenger, Sandberg ruled out plans for the moment, but claimed that she would be happy for brands to approach her on a one-to-one basis as a user if it was from a brand she liked.

Asked about her views on how CEO Zuckerberg’s leadership skills have evolved over the 10 years since the platform launched, coinciding with his 30th birthday, she stated that she believed that he had been "underestimated" because of his initial shy demeanor.

“He’s not the most talkative person when people first meet him but he is one of the best listeners in the world,” Sandberg elaborated. “He listens to what you have been saying, to what you haven’t said, the body language, and he’s a great believer in the power of people to share. At his core, he’s an optimist and he believes in the power of individuals.”

She also discussed recent acquisition Oculous Rift, which she said was “an investment and a near-term opportunity” to heighten Facebook’s gaming offer.

“It is also a bet on what could be a broader future communications platform that brings life to life,” she added.

Sandberg then discussed one of her passions – the fight for gender equality - which she wrote about in her book Lean In and revealed that Facebook’s own equality numbers were “in line with everybody else” and described the lack of diversity across the world as “pretty depressing”.

She claimed that the problem was an issue of culture and stated that the world was decades away from becoming equal.

“We don’t expect women to be computer scientists and we don’t expect black people to be computer scientists. So they don’t code. We don’t expect minorities in most countries to be leaders and so we don’t – the images that we produce, the marketing that we do – this community can and is starting to change in how we market to women and people so that any child out there of any race or background can believe that they can do anything because they can visualise it and see it.”

Finally, Sandberg admitted that Facebook’s advertising experience was still in need of improvement while there was also more work to be done for the platform to access more people.

“Newsfeed is pretty amazing and because it is so personal, it is really driving our progress on mobile,” she stated, and revealed that more than one in five minutes spent on mobile were done consuming Newsfeed.

“Newsfeed is relevant but it could still be better. We could still be showing more things you want to see. Our ads are getting better and they are relevant, but they are not at the point where every ad we see on Facebook is a delightful experience, and we want to get there,” she added.

Earlier today, Facebook revealed its new messaging app, Slingshot, which allows its users to exchange disappearing images and videos among their friends.

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