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TBG Targets Facebook Advertising In U.S.

Now that it's made its mark in Europe, TBG Digital is hoping to duplicate its successful social media advertising strategy here in the United States.

Now that it's made its mark in Europe, TBG Digital is hoping to duplicate its successful social media advertising strategy here in the United States.The global marketing company set up shop in San Francisco this summer and has added about a dozen U.S. companies to its installed customer base so far.

TBG dove into the Facebook ad space around 18 months ago, when the social networking giant invited it to participate in the Alpha API program. TBG took the offer seriously, did its research, and decided to sink $1 million into developing ONE Media Manager, a software platform that allows ad execs to build, monitor, and optimize large-scale ad campaigns on Facebook.

"We're learning just how much demand there is in the U.S. for Facebook advertising," said Patrick Toland, U.S. managing director at TBG. "One company did a test run by sending an e-mail to local SMBs and offering them either a $100 credit on Google advertising or a $50 credit on Facebook advertising. The number of companies opting for the Facebook deal was exponentially higher. Every SMB wants to be on Facebook now."

The trouble is, advertising on Facebook requires time and expertise, Toland said. "It's time-consuming to post just one ad at the site, never mind 1,000 ad variants," he said. "We have 25 to 30 staffers dedicated just to Facebook ad campaigns, so there's a lot of collective expertise here."

What's more, there's not a whole lot of room for creativity when developing a Facebook campaign, according to Toland. He says Facebook ads are stripped-down, consisting of just a static graphic, title, and some body copy. The meat of the work is mathematical in nature; it involves making subtle changes to an ad (adding a border or changing its color, for example), then "running the numbers" to gauge the effectiveness of the change. "This isn't especially interesting work for creative types," Toland said. "We refer to our people as 'direct marketing scientists.'"

TBG runs ad campaigns from soup to nuts for industry heavyweights such as JetBlue and Vodaphone, and it also licenses its technology to other ad agencies that prefer to do the work themselves. In addition, the company teams up with aggregators -- companies in the same category as Citisearch, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. Many of those aggregators are targeting SMBs that want to get into the digital advertising game.

In building its U.S. base, TBG is modeling its efforts in the U.K., where about 70 staffers reside in a single office building. So far, the San Francisco location is home to about a dozen employees, and counting. The company has 50-plus clients in 40 countries.

TBG is working with Twitter now, too, to see how it can tap yet another social media force as a source of large-scale advertising. "Twitter is in the very early stages of this whole advertising thing. They're doing a lot of experimenting," Toland said. "But this is definitely a market to watch. Twitter has more than 100 million registered users, and 300,000 new users sign up every day."

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