Meet Facebook’s Stealth Marketing Platform, “Publishing Garage”

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One of Facebook’s bigger hurdles in advertising has been to figure out ways of either applying traditional metrics, or coming up with new ones, to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns on the social network. Today, we got wind of one of its latest efforts to connect the dots a bit better. Publishing Garage is a new program — and platform — that the social network has created to work with mega-agencies and brands to improve how brands use Facebook to market themselves, and measure when it’s working well.

The existence of Publishing Garage was first spotted by the blog Fusible, which noticed that Facebook had registered a number of domain names — variations on publishinggarage.com, facebookpublishinggarage.com, and so on.

Fusible also notes that there have been some other hints for it elsewhere: an online search for “Facebook Publishing Garage” takes you to the site of Addie Marino, a brand specialist and creative strategist for Facebook in New York. One of the projects detailed on her site is for logo and design work for Publishing Garage, which she describes as a “program geared at building world-class social publishing systems that enable brands to create the most meaningful connections with their connections and their friends through News Feed stories.” Part of Publishing Garage involves intensive three-day workshops, she says.

I have done some digging and found out a bit more: The Publishing Garage program has actually been quietly running since September. There have been 20 Publishing Garages so far in the U.S. with major brands — but the names are not being made public (one possible candidate: Macy’s). Now Facebook is expanding the program to other markets, starting with the UK. Tomorrow, Facebook is expected to reveal that the first brand to use the platform/program internationally is Doritos, working with its agencies AMV BBDO and OMD, to create its own, optimised publishing system.

The idea is to help court big brands who are already spending a lot, to keep spending that money by ensuring that what they are doing is actually working… and possibly spend more. “Publishing Garage is a Facebook-led initiative for brands to optimise their performance on Facebook, an ignition switch to make the participating brand one of the best publishers on Facebook,” notes a news release on the program.

I believe the agencies involved will change depending on the brand/client; the description seems to imply a strong role played by OMD and AMV at least in the Doritos campaign specifically: “Managed via a cross-agency, client and Facebook steering committee, it incorporates AMV’s and Facebook’s expertise in publishing content with OMD’s skill in understanding audiences and setting creative roles for media.”

Although Facebook has registered about eight different variations on that domain name, it looks like at this point there are no plans to make this a public website — rather, it will remain open only to those brands working on Publishing Garage projects with Facebook. As I understand it, for now it will only be open to brands that are spending above a certain threshold on Facebook marketing.

In addition to offering up a team of creative strategists from Facebook itself (the ‘intensive workshops’) Publishing Garage is aiming to put into place a set of measurements to demonstrate how well campaigns are working. This will be in collaboration with Nielsen as well as other social measurement tools — although which are not yet specified.

Work on the Doritos campaign has been going on since November and the aim is to “optimise the Doritos Facebook content strategy, complimented by longer-term media support.  The media investment will amplify key strategic posts and increase awareness of Doritos content at key moments,” the company says.

It’s not clear whether Facebook at some point intends this to replace the functions of third parties like Vitrue, Nanigans or others who provide marketing expertise, insight and platforms for brands that want to advertise on Facebook, but it’s one more sign of how the social network is getting increasingly sophisticated in its bid to court big ad dollars.