Following Thursday’s announcement that Facebook is rebranding to Meta as part of its efforts to transform from a social media company to a metaverse company, The Drum catches up with Nicola Mendelsohn, who is leaving her post as vice-president of EMEA to become vice-president of Meta’s global business group. Mendelsohn spells out how advertising will fit into the metaverse, how the company is rebuilding trust amid recent scandals, and why commerce is positioned to become a more integral part of Meta’s business.
Obviously, the big news is Meta. Talk to us about where marketers and advertisers fit into the metaverse.
[We’re] setting out a very clear vision – a 10-year-plus vision – about where the future of the company is going and how we are going to be a part of building the metaverse and letting people connect. With all those things on the way, there’s a fantastic opportunity for different businesses to get involved and for advertisers to get involved, because no one company is going to own the metaverse. It’s going to be a collection of all different companies coming together – different businesses, different entrepreneurs, different startups coming together to create the next new computing platform.
I’m already seeing different advertisers getting involved in the early days of the metaverse, which is what we’re in today. I think about the things that brands are doing on augmented reality (AR) through Spark VR, at the Ray-Ban shop on Instagram… you can actually go in, you can see all the different Ray-Bans, and you can try them on and see which styles suit you. Brands like Charlotte Tilbury use different filters – [users] can try on the lipstick and different eyeshadows. These are some really early things that, from existing products, will start to evolve and build parts of the future of the metaverse.
There’s been a fair amount of negative press around the brand lately, from the Wall Street Journal reports regarding Instagram’s effects on teen mental health to recent whistleblower accusations. But through it all, it seems the company’s earnings haven’t really taken a hit – performance is still looking good. During this time, how are you thinking about earning the trust of consumers as well as partners and, in particular, ensuring that advertisers feel comfortable spending their ad dollars with Meta?
This is a really important question. And it’s something that I’ve been having conversations about with our partners and our advertisers in recent weeks. They acknowledge and they see the efforts, but what they also see, much more importantly, is the amount of investment that we’ve made. We’re on track to spend more than $5bn this year on safety and security, and we’re now employing over 40,000 people. But it’s not just the investment, it’s actually what’s happening as a result of the investment [that matters], and [our partners are] seeing real and tangible results. That’s in part due to the work that we’re doing and that many of them are involved in – through things like the work with the Media Rating Council and the audit.
I don’t think there’s any other company either investing as much or being as open about it and seeing the results that we’re seeing. That doesn’t mean we’re satisfied. I want to be really clear that we’re going to continue to make sure that we invest in this area. We’re not going to settle for where we are. We want to keep moving. Those are the sorts of conversations that we’re having.
How is Meta thinking about privacy right now and balancing consumer protection with the needs of advertisers?
As we look ahead to the future of advertising, it’s clear that the ways that digital advertising collects and uses data is going to continue to evolve. Actually, we support – and have for some time – giving people more control over their data and how it’s used in order to improve advertising relevance. So we’re building a much more personalized advertising ecosystem that will rely on less data, while also ensuring that we create a level playing field for both large and small businesses. We’re investing in privacy-enhancing technologies, based on advanced statistical techniques, that minimize the data we collect, process and share, and helps to protect data at different stages of the data lifecycle. This is ongoing work for us. It’s not something that, you know, you snap your fingers, and it’s done. I’m going to continue to make sure we have very thoughtful conversations around it, but it will take some time to continue to develop. There’ll be more to [come] next year.
What are some key trends you’re seeing right now and what are some areas of growth that you plan to invest in moving forward?
We’re going to see a really big holiday season for commerce. We’re bringing #BuyBlack Friday. Last holiday season, we had 15 million people tune into our #BuyBlack Friday across the US. Now we’re going global with programming in other countries with live shopping segments from Black-owned businesses. There’ll be collections that will be available weekly, starting from November. There will also be gift guides, which are curations of products across US-owned businesses from all different categories – beauty, home, fashion.
[More broadly,] we’re going to see more and more [movement in commerce] as a result of what’s happened over the last 18 months. More of us are shopping online in ways that we didn’t see before the pandemic. People are moving from being utilitarian, like, ‘I want that, I searched for it, I got it,’ to being much more in a world of inspiration and discovery. And we’re seeing that not just in commerce, but in [areas like entertainment]. We could probably sit for a while and talk about what to watch on Netflix. We have that experience of curated discovery through things like Netflix and Spotify. So that [focus on] inspiration and discovery is a real insight in terms of how we’re accelerating all of our work, to build new, exciting experiences for people when they’re shopping.
At the same time, we’re building powerful commerce tools for businesses, to be able, ultimately, to make a stronger economy for everyone. Because if you can reach the customers that matter and inspire them, then it’s going to be good both ways. It started with Facebook shops last year. We now have 1.2m shops and 300 million people visiting every month. We’ve got the rollout of the Shops tab happening in more and more countries. We’ve got immersive formats, we’ve got product tags, we’ve got drops, stickers and live shopping, then of course AR and VR. I mean, there’s so many different areas. [Commerce] is an area that we’re going to see more and more. People want a more seamless customer journey, and hopefully, that’ll be a place where you see it. You learn about it, you decide to buy, you pay for it and then it arrives. That’s the vision.