Cannes 2015: Facebook's Chris Cox on next gen mobile ads and the need to learn Hindi in future

Cox, Chief Product Officer of Facebook, says tools using augmented reality and virtual reality will change the mobile ad experience; sees next spurt of growth coming from India

e4m by Srabana Lahiri
Updated: Jun 25, 2015 8:01 AM
Cannes 2015: Facebook's Chris Cox on next gen mobile ads and the need to learn Hindi in future

Touch a product, examine it, twirl it around, put it back or add it to your cart – all in the virtual world. That is going to be the power packed into advertising on the mobile platform, when Facebook’s latest tools to transform the mobile ad experience are launched in a matter of months.

Speaking at a session titled ‘Building for Story-tellers’ at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015, Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer of Facebook said, “What is really exciting right now is the idea that we are moving from taking a webpage and putting it on phone and then getting into a kind of experience where you can look underneath that and find something that’s fuller, three-dimensional and encouraging you to use your finger and your ears to explore.”

Cox pointed out the change that has happened over the last few years: “You can’t any longer imagine an election without seeing the person you are voting for publicly speaking to you on TV. It’s hard even to think about it,” he said, adding that it has opened up huge opportunity for brands to cash in on the hunger for real experience. “That, for us, is the most fascinating thing to think about, as we know the software to make it happen.”

Facebook’s 10-year journey has involved going from wallpapers and status updates to photos and photo albums, to videos and now augmented reality and virtual reality. “We are trying to figure out how exactly it works. Whether you look at a phone, tablet or a PC, you actually turn around and experience something that is pure,” Cox said.

“So what’s the next version of moving beyond photos and passive text? We have imagined something that could exist in the future, which is a world where video is watched a lot and you are encouraged to think of it and look around it, the same way you would if you were going to a store,” Cox said.

Talking of the potential of technology, he cited several examples of AR and VR giving people richer experiences. One of them is an app that allows anybody to take a picture of food in any market of the world and tag it. This allows the local farmer to decide where to buy or sell their produce. “The outcome is the data set which non-profits and investors can use to understand food choice 25 days before it is available. So to help hunger, suddenly you have an interesting data set that lets you see which staples are rising and exactly where,” he explained.

‘We need to brush up our Hindi, and rules of cricket’

Cox’s presentation had several references to India, perhaps an indication of how important the India market is for Facebook right now. “Where are the next billion people on the Internet?” he asked. “A third is in India. A fifth is in China. They are not scattered around the world. The next billion Internet users are in very concentrated and specific regions. So we only need to brush up our Hindi. For people in India, we are paying attention to their expectations.”

He said Facebook’s new sign-up page asks for three things: first name, last name and password. “If you are an early user in India, here is a very good chance that you have no idea about what password is. We don’t use the word last name. We call it family name. It is a reminder just how important the details are.” 

Cox predicted trends that tell the story for the next year. “First is that half of the world is connected with Facebook. That’s about three billion people and that number we are about to double in the next five years. Second is that the phone user is getting better pretty quick. We can look forward very soon to the day when the very last feature phone is extinct and disappears from existence. And third is that the networks are not going to get faster – 2G is going to blank a lot of the world for a very long time. If you are trying to use your phone to use the Internet in Delhi at night, when the network is congested, one out of five pulses drops. So any software that can work in that kind of environment needs to be built to be tolerant to extremely unreliable networks,” he said. 

“India is Facebook’s future; they are smart to quickly learn and get Indians and Facebook their respective ‘home page’. I imagine the term Mujhse Dosti Karoge is not lost on them,” commented Sunil Lulla, Chairman & Managing Director of Grey Group India, who was at the session.

Facebook’s Cannes Theme: The Hacker Way

The Hacker Way is Facebook's overall Cannes theme this year, and it has brought the ‘Hacker Square’ to France. At the festival, Facebook executives are meeting more than a hundred clients and agencies to explore the possibility of giving them creative support and help build richer experiences for “where people are”.

In Q1 2015, Facebook’s revenue totalled $3.54 billion, an increase of 42%, compared with $2.50 billion in the first quarter of 2014. Revenue from advertising was $3.32 billion, a 46% increase from the same quarter last year. Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 73% of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2015.

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