“I came in with eyes wide open. I knew that this was challenging,” admits Facebook’s chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio when asked about the job he has in front of him at one of the most powerful businesses on the planet.
Nine months into the job he took after an impressive performance at HP where he pracitised his decree that agency partners must offer diversity in the teams he worked with, Lucio has begun to do the same at the social media giant. He has demanded diversity from the businesses he has appointed to help build the brand of Facebook as a corporation and its suite of apps: WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and its original social media platform.
A much-revered marketer, Lucio held senior positions within PepsiCo and Visa before his three years at HP. He is a man who exudes dignity and wisdom and is always thoughtful and calm despite his quick Latin speech.
The opening of the Facebook playbook
Having just announced a raft of agency appointments to handle each of the apps, Lucio reveals that he was waiting until now to be able to speak openly about his plans for Facebook. He intends to pick up where he left off at HP when it comes to driving gender and diversity within the businesses in his employ and building the brand stories of each app, including the creation of “a specific voice” for Facebook as a corporation.
That voice will be built through the appointment of Droga5 around three pillars, he explains: responsibility, social impact and innovation which has become the company’s narrative.
“That’s what we call a trust strategy,” he says, adding that a value strategy will also be adopted to ensure that each of the apps has longevity.
“The Facebook app is all about moving friends and family into groups. Connections and community is what we are there to build so the campaign that we launch with W+K, 'More Together', is aimed at that – encouraging people to join more groups.
"In the case of Instagram, a brand that has not spoken very much, it is about owning the space of expression. Culture is curated today in Instagram. We need to do a much better job in articulating the point of view of the creator through an ongoing dialogue with our users both on the platform and outside the platform.
"Whatsapp, which is huge outside of the US, has some of the same challenges and opportunities which is that the brand is well known, highly regarded, it’s also a utility-based brand; it doesn’t have a lot of affinity and what we want to do is to create a stronger emotional link to the WhatsApp brand all around private conversations.
"In the case of Messenger, it’s about making sure that becomes a significant player in messaging within the US markets. Each one of these apps is going to have to tell their stories to its user base and that is why we have decided to have a different partner for each one.”
The challenges ahead
He admits that he could see the major challenge he was taking on when joining Facebook, a role he was persuaded to take by both Sheryl Sandberg and co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg over a number of meetings, and that the global nature makes it both exciting and appealing.
“When you are approaching a new assignment you need to learn the business and you need to learn the brands and you need to understand the culture really well. That’s the most important – to learn the business, earn a seat at the business-table and try to manage the situation. At the same time it becomes incredibly frustrating because you don’t know the business well and at other times incredibly exciting because you are consistently seeing the impact that the platform has on the world and the impact that we could potentially have on the platform.
“Marketing directly to users is rather new to Facebook; we’ve done a good job marketing to the business-side and we have done a good job marketing on-platform for very specific performance-based initiatives [but] we’ve never done brand-building the way we are doing it now. Showing what that looks like, convincing people what that looks like and getting the job done within the context of the challenging environment is where I am spending most of my time.”
In the months since joining, there has been more talk by senior leaders in the team around rebuilding trust and transparency, a strategy he admits to being a part of devising, if not solely.
“The reason why I joined is because I was able to perceive between Mark [Zuckerberg] and Sheryl [Sandberg] and the senior members of the company the need for change and they talked about addressing our fundamental issues around electoral interference, misinformation, privacy and data and data management. And they spoke about the need for more transparency and the need for more proactive communications – therefore the need for people like myself and for Nick Clegg. The awareness and the proactive intent to change things around was already there. Nick and I have come to show the ‘how’. Otherwise it would not have happened that fast.
“Rebuilding trust is going to take time. Rebuilding trust is going to take concrete, strong actions. Building trust, the last part, is about communicating those actions and being very consistent about that message. That is what we are here to do, this is not going to be an overnight turnaround in any way, shape or form because we are talking about platforms that have an impact on people’s lives – 2.7 billion of them – and it’s going to take time, consistency, purpose and action."
The global issues Facebook has identified it needs to resolve are electoral interference, misinformation, privacy and data management, says Lucio.
“The manifestations of privacy for example varies from country-to-country but we are committed to making a concerted effort to actually work together with opinion leaders, policy leaders and academics from around the world to actually sort those four things out. In that I have to say that Europe is more advanced than any other country. It was the first to do GDPR, we wish that GDPR was the global standard. As we move into the definitions of privacy, the definitions of data management and what is information and what is misinformation? - we are going to be working a lot with the Europeans and hopefully so that in some point in time we get universal standards across those four areas.”
He states outright his belief that no one company should have the power to make the decisions that define how online data is managed and regulated on their own. “When you are there to decide what is fake and what is not, I can tell you that from those of us in this room, already with AI filters and the sets of standards, we will have different points of view as to what is allowed and what is not allowed. So, having that third-party establish those standards and having internal artificial intelligence modeled to hit those standards, it is something that is good for the world.”
How Lucio intends to continue his Diversity agenda
In June, Lucio has shown his hand when it comes to how he plans to continue his work investing in the growth of diversity and equality in advertising, admitting to using the same strategy he initiated within HP and only working with agency teams that meet his criteria in that respect.
“The moral that we are applying to Facebook is basically the same playbook and it emanates from one fundamental principle and this is you need holistic and systemic change, meaning clients, agencies, production houses and measurements. All that needs to change and all that needs to change at the same time. The client writes the brief, the agency creates the brand idea and the director interprets the brand idea and brings it to life. You need a diverse perspective across all three elements of it otherwise you are not going to deliver a communication that will resonate with your user base.
"In the case of Facebook, I have never been at a platform that is so big and so diverse. It has to be from the get-go. I now have the most diverse team I have ever led at leadership level in terms of women and under-represented groups. Now it’s the turn of the agencies to [do likewise]. Since it’s new work, they should design it with a diversity mindset from the get-go."
Lucio cites the Free the Work project, part of the Free the Big movement, as being another aspect of moving of the needle in the work being undertaken to further diversity causes. The movement was celebrated during Cannes Lions week and sees Facebook, alongside Proctor and Gamble marketing chief Marc Pritchard and various other global media personalities and marketers including HP and Publicis Groupe, commit to gender equality and to doubling the number of female film, TV and advertising directors.
Asked if the difference being made has to be steered by brand marketers, he is in agreement to some extent: “Clients own the wallet so they can accelerate the trend but media platforms, agencies – they have an obligation to do it as well because it’s good business sense. It’s not a values issue or an equality issue only – it has been demonstrated time-and-time again and we were able to demonstrate it at HP with two years of data, it delivers a superior creative product and it builds the business. So we should all be more demanding as to the compositions of the teams because we all want healthier businesses."
He promises to share the learnings made from the process he has now undertaken at Facebook – good and bad.
How Facebook has handled recent criticism
Finally, when questioned as to how he felt his bosses handled the media attacks they faced when it came to the issues around political interference in electoral processes around the world, followed by queries about their privacy policies, Lucio is characteristically forward that they probably “didn’t handle it very well” in terms of how proactive they were in responding and “telling the story.”
“I have seen a significant shift – Mark is more out there than ever before and he is engaging with regulators and academics. There is an understanding and a shift within the company around everything that we do starting with privacy. There was a time when Mark was in his 20s and he said that this generation did not care about privacy as much as the previous generation, now he is talking about privacy first – that is a big evolution. Fixing that platform’s problems, not just with artificial intelligence but the best engineers in the world which we have access to but also with reputable third parties, there is a significant shift.”
The recent appointments made to assist the aspiration of building ‘timeless brands’ included the intention to continue to work with indie agency Wieden + Kennedy, the expansion of its partnership with Publicis’ Leo Burnett, and the hiring of WPP's Ogilvy, Omnicom's BBDO, and Accenture's Droga5.