Coke, Unilever go mobile with Facebook

05 July 2012

NEW YORK: Coca-Cola and Unilever, two of the world's largest advertisers, are attempting to utilise Facebook, the social network, to reach mobile phone users in emerging markets.

To try and engage consumers in fast-growing economies, Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, believes leveraging the social network in combination with mobile devices holds a considerable degree of promise.

"Facebook is the internet for them," Wendy Clark, senior vice president of marketing at Coca-Cola, told Business Week. "If you start to cut into emerging and developing markets, the mobile phone is the easiest and most direct medium that we can reach consumers with."

"We're definitely looking at Facebook's penetration and growth rate, and certainly for a global multinational like us, we're very interested in them growing across the world."

Facebook has previously suggested that driving mobile ad sales would be difficult, even though 500m users accessed its pages in this way April. Some 83m only log on from a handset.

JPMorgan Chase anticipates that Facebook's revenues should rise from $3.7bn in 2011 to $8.9bn in 2014, aided by mobile ads. Of this latter figure, $1.4bn is expected to stem from developing nations.

More broadly, figures from the International Telecommunications Union show that mobile penetration currently stands at around 79% in emerging markets, versus 25% for computers.

Unilever, the FMCG group, has joined Coca-Cola in employing the sole paid-for mobile marketing tool Facebook offers, in the form of a sponsored post which appears within the news feed of members.

Jay Altschuler, global media director for Unilever, argued this is particularly useful in rural areas of countries like India. "We sit in villages and talk to consumers about media habits," he said. "They may not even have a roof over their house, but the one thing they do have is a mobile phone."

Carolyn Everson, Facebook's vice president, global marketing solutions, also reported that brand owners are keen to exploit its reach in regions such as Africa, India and South East Asia.

"They are seeing that their next hundred million or billion consumers are mostly coming from developing countries where mobile is not just the dominant, it is often the only way that people are accessing these companies," she said. "In these countries, it's literally Facebook."

Facebook recently rolled out an app for basic feature phones provided by firms including Nokia, Sony Ericsson and LG, which is now available in nations like the Dominican Republic, Romania and Tunisia.

Data sourced from Business Week; additional content by Warc staff