Most Powerful Women

Transcript: One-on-one with Facebook's Carolyn Everson

June 24, 2013: 2:59 PM ET

Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions for Facebook, joined Fortune's Pattie Sellers on stage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women London conference.

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Carolyn Everson

Below is an unedited transcript:

Pattie Sellers: Thank you, I'm here with Carolyn Everson from Facebook.  I love the variety here from Dr. Nancy to [inaudible], and the global economy, to the digital world.  So, Carolyn and I have known each other for a while, I have never been on stage with her.  I happened to be in Cannes last week with Carolyn, she is the vice president of global marketing solutions for Facebook, a title that I find really hard to understand but it basically means that she is in charge of the top global accounts, global agencies, advertising sales, media strategy.  She has long been, ever since she joined Facebook a few years ago, Sheryl Sandberg's, kind of, primo mentee .. I don't like that word, right hand.

You have to understand, last week, at this Cannes Lions advertising festival, which is about over twelve thousand people, big, global advertisers getting together, you know, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, Coke, Pepsi and all of the media people who want to meet with them to sell them advertising.  Most of the media people can't even get meetings with these honchos of the big brand companies.  Carolyn happens to be the most popular media woman at Cannes, hands down.  She generally gets two hours of sleep there a night, two hours, basically she has meeting from eight until two.  On Wednesday night, around midnight, I ran into Carolyn and her husband Doug and her wonderful twin girls, Kennedy and Taylor.  Kennedy and Taylor stand up please.  This is Kennedy and Taylor's first time seeing their mother on stage so we have to make this good.  And I ran into Carolyn and she said, 'Oh my God, my day, I just, for the first time in fourteen hours, went into my room and stood in front of the mirror and my shirt was on inside out all day.' (Laughter).  And so Carolyn, of course, posted on Facebook immediately, 'just noticed the top I was wearing all day in Cannes was inside out.'  She got 158 likes, such comments as, 'Hipster, lean inside out' and, 'Tomorrow in Cannes, everyone will be wearing their shirts inside out.'  It's true.

Carolyn Everson: Quite embarrassing, yes.

Pattie Sellers: So anyway, you have it together today.

Carolyn Everson: Yes, I'm trying.

Pattie Sellers: So thanks for being here.  So, one of the reasons that we wanted to have Carolyn here for Most Powerful Women, London, is she changed her life these last six months.  She has the top advertising sales job at Facebook, and an opportunity came up about seven months ago, Carolyn explain what that opportunity was.

Carolyn Everson: Sure, we had a fantastic leader who might be in the room, definitely on the agenda, Joanna Shields, running [inaudible].  And, she had an opportunity to go and work for the UK government, to lead Texity.  And, Joanna was always an amazing leader internally for Facebook, but did a ton of work for the government, so it was a great position for her.  She left Facebook last , and so I was left with the situation where her entire team also was also reporting into me.  I had about eighteen direct reports based out of New York, and I was coming back and forth every week and then I decided, in December, I came home and I said to my husband and my children, 'What do you think about going to live in London for, you know, some time?'  And they, thankfully, I have adventurous children and a very supportive husband, they said, 'do whatever you need to do Mum.' We packed up and moved to London in January so I could lead the team, be hands on, be present in the market and really get to know the clients and agencies on a much deeper level than you can when you just show up for two days.  So, we have been here, it's been extraordinary, we're in love with London, we're in love with the people here and it's been fantastic.

Pattie Sellers: What has been different, both business wise, and culturally, from what you expect?

Carolyn Everson: Business-wise, you know, when I got on the ground, I was based in New York, but for some reason, people felt that I was a different person on January 7th than I was January 6th.  January 6th I was an American that flew in for a few days, January 7th I was suddenly here. It's sort of a hard thing to explain, but I think that it meant a lot that we moved the family.  I enrolled my girls in a British school, I did not want to put them into the American school system here, and we really tried to culturally become part of the fabric of the community of London.  I think that that was great.  What I was surprised about was the perception of the Facebook brand.  And what I mean by that is that it is perceived to be sometimes a Silicon Valley technical company and arguably it's the most personal and human brand that exists, right?  Their whole mission is to make the world more open and connected and it gives people all these tools, and I didn't think that the brand was as perceived as well as I wanted it to be.  That was a very, very important learning, because I fed that back into our headquarters in Menlo Park, and I said, 'We need to start humanising our brand and remembering why we exist in peoples lives and from the smallest moments to the world's most monumental moments that are being documented.' So there has been a lot of work on the brand.  I really credit coming here and living that as opposed to maybe being in this world of Silicon Valley.

Pattie Sellers: What were the indications that the brand didn't have the human quality that you wanted?

Carolyn Everson: Clients would say to me, they would say, you know, the materials, even, that you use, your presentations, the way you talk about the brand, it's just not humanising.  A spokesperson would say, instead of a human being from the company and it was just a really good insight.  I think we are really grateful as a company to have that insight and it has really changed a lot of our thinking about how we go to market.

Pattie Sellers: Is there a way to capsulize what you did with the branding and the marketing to make it more human?

Carolyn Everson: Yes, so we went to work on figuring out, we knew when Mark created the company nine years ago, he created it to make the world more open and connected and that mission has not changed.  The majority of the people are at Facebook because they truly believe that the world is going to be a better place when people have a voice that have never had one, when people in emerging markets get access to data and can access the internet.  That's what really keeps people moving, internally.  On the external side, I don't think we had a clear enough articulation about what Facebook meant for marketers, so we went through a process over these past few months and we have recently tried to roll out more of the positioning and it is quite simple to a marketer.  So, if I am in front of Unilever or Procter and Gamble, or a small business, Facebook has all of the people that matter to you, where they discover what matters to them.  That simple thing to roll off your tongue, it seems so obvious, I'm sure to all of you who have done this kind of work, it's like, that's obvious, but sometimes when you're inside the company, it takes that external feedback, we really have to listen to the market and that really helped us.

The second thing I did, we have a global client council, that I started when I joined Facebook two and a half years ago, it has ten global CMO agencies (inaudible).  They have really become our internal board of directors and I actually think it's an interesting model for all industries.  Every company has their board of directors, you have heard me talk about, I think every person should have their own personal board of directors.  But I had a bit of a twist, which is, can I take a group of people and have them advise Facebook on actually how to build better solutions?  To advise us on things like, you know, the brand, to advise us on tools and insights and they now have created complete alignment with our engineering team, our creative, our measurement team and we started a UK advisory board because I was so impressed with the feedback I was getting from the market here.

Pattie Sellers: When you meet with clients, whether it is Cannes or in London or any place across Europe, Middle East, or anywhere in the world actually, what is the number one thing they don't understand about how Facebook can serve their marketing purposes?

Carolyn Everson: The number one thing is what I would call fan obsession and I think we probably contributed to that because we talked a lot about fans and we have a lot of brands racing to get a million fans, 100,000 fans, it doesn't matter what the number is.  They get and they say, 'now what?'  Really the evolution of shifting people from thinking of Facebook as, 'I'm going to have a page, I'm going to have lots of fans,' to, 'I'm actually going to use it for a marketing platform and reach my current consumers, my prospective consumers, my fans, whomever I want.'  Making that shift from a social media conversation to a marketing conversation, that's where we are right now.  Where is Facebook right now?  We're on that shift.  Last week in Cannes, you know, I felt it in every single meeting where light bulbs were going off, saying, 'we thought of you here, but now what you're actually starting to do because of your scale and your targeting ability, you're actually starting to be a major marketing engine for brand building.'  That is where we're trying to move the company.

Pattie Sellers: So I want to get to questions but I want to talk a little bit about your career because your career is so interesting.  Carolyn has been a lot of places in her, you're 41 years old, in her, you know, twenty year career.  She spent seven years at MTV networks and had a really fantastic career there and they did not want her to leave, but, Microsoft called, I guess Steve Ballmer called directly, right?  Steve Ballmer called and hired Carolyn into a very senior position, a job any powerful woman would envy, and you stayed there, what?  Five months?

Carolyn Everson: Sheryl called after five months, but I stayed nine.  It was really difficult.

Pattie Sellers: Sheryl Sandberg called.

Carolyn Everson: 
Yes.

Pattie Sellers: You didn't know Sheryl, you had never met her?  Explain that.

Carolyn Everson: No, the press reports that we knew each other from the Microsoft relationship, but the truth is that we knew a lot of people in common but Sheryl and I had not spent any time.  The head of sales was leaving Facebook, he had been there since the beginning, he was ready to take a break, and Sheryl actually asked somebody that we mutually knew to call me.  I took the phone call going up the steps of my best friend's porch in October before Halloween, and he said, 'Sheryl Sandberg wants to see you about the role.'  I said, 'you have got to be kidding me?  You're calling with a dream opportunity, and I just got to, I can't do this.'  I like had this moment of panic, and he said, 'you know what, calm down,  think about it.'  I thought about it for maybe 30 seconds and I realised that I had always loved Facebook.  I had tried to buy Facebook when I was at MTV and so I had been watching the company from the very, very beginning.  It was a really tough process to get through that decision, and people warned me that it was going to be tumultuous, but it turned out to be the best decision for me.

Pattie Sellers: Who has a question.  Yes, over here?

Anne:  Hello, it's Anne Richards, I'll stand up since I am over in the corner.  Carolyn, lovely hearing you talk and fascinating.  I was wondering if I could ask you a slightly difficult question.  It's one that has been a bit of an issue, not sure how global the campaign has been, but it has been around the gender based hate speech, which has obviously been so topical for advertisers.  As you talk about humanising the brand, I just wondered if you had any comments on that whole issue of what the policy should be around gender based hate versus any of the other concepts.

Carolyn Everson:  Thank you for the question.  I mean, look, there is no place for hate on Facebook, and let me lay out at least the facts of what is happening on the internet, because it's not just Facebook (FB), it's all digital companies.  We receive about 4.5 billion pieces of content a day on Facebook.  I don't know the number that YouTube receives, but if you add up how much is actually getting published on all the major digital properties, it's an engineering problem that no one believes in the industry you can completely solve.  Right, if technology could cast this fast enough and it would never appear then that would be an ideal world.  So what that means is that we actually need to work a lot harder, both on the engineering and technology, to warn us if things are going up, get it down really quickly.  We worked really hard on the policy side, and you know, I'm very proud, that was a very difficult few days.  There was no sleep and I was on the phone with our marketing partners and our policy team, and I am proud of the fact that at the end of the day the organisation that raised the issues said that Facebook handled it better and set an industry standard for how to deal with this going forward.

John Hayes at American Express was with me, we were at a conference at Procter & Gamble when this whole thing was unfolding, and he pulled me aside and he said, 'Carolyn.  One bit of advice for you.'  He said, 'brands are judged by how they react, just remember that.  If you take every proactive step to fight this, get the content down, put strict policies in place, get more people to actually review the content to protect advertisers, you do that, that is how you are going to be judged.'  No one, not one digital company can guarantee anybody that this is going to be a perfect solution.  We're trying to get darn close and we have no tolerance for it.

Pattie Sellers:  Great.  Yes, right up here?

Thanks Carolyn, Anne Cairns, MasterCard.  We love Facebook and do a lot of things with you, but obviously using Facebook for corporate or consumer marketing, requires, you know, a tremendous level of refreshment, input, you know, really understanding how to use digital marketing.  How do you perceive this whole arena across the world right now in terms of the readiness of companies to be able to be really doing things, you know, online and refreshing everything constantly?

Carolyn Everson:  That's a great question.  So Pattie last week lead a panel at Cannes with our head of creative engineering, and David Droga, who is the chief creative, and just to sum it up, the cadence of creativity is actually the largest challenge for brands like yourself.  We've lived in the last several decades where it was totally fine to plan months if not twelve to eighteen months in advance, get a, you know, 30 second spot, get a print campaign and it was all neat, you tied it in a bow and it was ready.  Maybe you were just a little bit.  It has now shifted to real time optimization, meaning you need to be able to plan in advance and have the voice of the brand appear very naturally, when people say, 'well how should my brand appear on Facebook,' I say, 'the brand should appear on Facebook the same way the brand should appear in all forms of media.'  Right?  It needs to be authentic, it needs to have a narrative, it needs to have a voice and I think you can plan that.  What I think the difficult thing is reacting to the moments of culture.  So I look at Oreo.  Oreo cookie did a fabulous job last year, they won the Facebook creative award, they won in Cannes last week as well.  They had a hundredth birthday last year, and each day they planned, literally, it was very simple but fantastic creative, a photo of an Oreo cookie that was relevant in pop culture.  So you can imagine what you would do for mother's day, and there were certain holidays and days that you could plan.  Then as things happened, they had to have their creative team react, real time.  So the cadence of creativity I think is going to be something that is fundamentally going to change the way that the industry is structured, and I think it has to.  I think it's going to be a good thing for brands actually, but it is a difficult transition.

Pattie Sellers:  Any other questions?  I just love, I know what Carolyn is going to say in answer to this question but I want to ask it anyway, what is the best advice you have ever gotten?

Carolyn:  Well we had a great dinner as Pattie knows, and we went around the table asking a bunch of women.  I host women's dinners in New York quite a lot, and someone said to me once, 'when you walk into a room, think of yourself as a thermostat.  Dial it up when you have to, and dial it down when you have to.'  I thought that that was a really interesting advice, because depending on what you're trying to accomplish and how you're perceived and how you go in is something you really have to think about, so that is one that I've held, but there were so many that night.  One of my favorites was leave people bigger than when you found them.

Pattie Sellers: Feeling bigger?

Carolyn: 
Yes, not bigger in terms of stuffing them, yes sorry.  (Laughter).  Feeling bigger, and I love that.  You know, every single person has a gift, and something you need to offer.   I think it's your job in whatever role or meeting you're in to figure what that gift is and bring it out in people.

Pattie Sellers: Another piece of advice that night actually, was if you're not learning, what's the point?  So thank you for teaching us a few things.

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