Ed Couchman

Director of Agency Partnerships at Facebook UK

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director


creativebrief: As UK Director of Agency Partnerships, what is your primary focus?

Ed Couchman: I focus on building meaningful and sustainable relationships within the media and advertising community and ensuring that we deliver best-in-class service levels and ideas to our clients.

creativebrief: What is the biggest issue for you today and how are you addressing it?

Ed Couchman: One of the biggest challenges we’re addressing is the hyperbole that we’re seeing the ‘end of television’. It’s true that the rapid growth in online video represents a further layer of complexity and media fragmentation, but it also represents the biggest opportunity for creatives, broadcasters, publishers and marketers for a generation.

In many ways TV is in the best health it has been in for years. Thinkbox revealed earlier this year that TV advertising in the UK passed the £5 billion mark for the first time in 2015. There is still absolutely a place for linear scheduling – especially when it comes to certain types of content, like sport. So rather than thinking of online and broadcasting as two separate entities, we want to unify the media and creative teams.  This will allow them to work more closely with clients to craft original content that works in a ‘mobile feed world' and improve the quality of the ads. The key for broadcasters is understanding how digital opportunities can work alongside traditional TV to better reflect current consumer behaviour; to protect, reach and most importantly heighten relevance.

That’s part of the reason we run sessions with our agency partners like Blueprint Live. It gives media planners the chance to learn about how all the tools and features on Facebook fit together to help them build a holistic media plan based on a hypothetical client brief. Just in the last month for example, we hosted Blueprint Live sessions with Publicis and Havas.

creativebrief: Industry wide, what work has excited you most this year?

Ed Couchman: We have seen some genuinely exciting work with the roll out of Facebook Live earlier in the year. It’s still early days but we’ve seen broadcasters really starting to use it to create a deeper, more immersive experience for their audiences.

Some fantastic examples have been The X Factor becoming the first music talent show to stream auditions and Gary Lineker revealing the running order for Match of the Day live on Facebook. Amazon’s Mr Robot, which is based around the world of hackers, have taken it a step further. Not only did they host a Live Q&A with the cast ahead of the second series airing, but twenty minutes into the stream the show’s fictional hacker organization, 'FSociety', interrupted the video with a disdain-filled rant about the “vapid nature of the interview”.

creativebrief: You spoke at the Content Marketing Summit and your three big themes for the year were Mobile, Visual and Discovery. How have these developed since the talk?

Ed Couchman: Honestly, I think these themes continue to be our biggest focus. The one thing I would say is that perhaps visual has moved on to video over the past year. First we migrated from text to visual content, and now we have migrated again from photos and emojis, to video.

And most interesting for the marketer is how that rise in video really reflects this seismic shift in how consumers now prefer to consume content. If we just take Facebook for example, there has been a massive increase in the time spent watching videos each day on the platform over the last 6 months – daily viewing time has now reached 100 million hours. It is the change in behaviour that these numbers represent, which has led BBC3 to move online after 13 years in order to reach the core BBC3 audience of 16-24 year olds.

We can’t predict what will happen next, but what we do know is that the standard model of TV advertising is over. The biggest challenge is not the threat of more competition but finding a consistent way of measuring the combined reach of TV and video on non-traditional platforms in order to drive advertisers.

creativebrief: Can you tell us about the great work you are involved in with Digify?

Ed Couchman: With Digify we’re talking about 'unlocking' opportunities for young people looking to break into the digital arena with a particular focus on addressing the lack of diverse talent in our industry.

Diversity is central to Facebook’s mission of creating a more open and connected world and it’s absolutely vital for us to have a broad range of perspectives within our business. And, since digital has the potential to unlock so many opportunities for young people, initiatives like this help to ensure they are open to everyone.

creativebrief: Can you tell us about Facebook’s involvement in the IAB?

Ed Couchman: Facebook sits on the steering committee along with some of the UK’s other largest digital bodies. I’m a strong advocate of the IAB, and my ambition for them is to begin to really celebrate the work in digital/mobile channels and how it can make the difference to businesses.

creativebrief: How do you stay in-touch with the industry’s best agencies and their work?

Ed Couchman: Through ongoing communication and collaboration, and making sure I’m up to date with the latest industry news. I’m an avid consumer of all media and I just try to digest all I can. I also have a standard lunch (and interview) question I always ask people around me; “what’s the best piece of work you have seen this month”. I like to think that helps me keep a broader perspective.

creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Is a better way?

Ed Couchman: I actually believe it can lead to an agency's sharpest thinking and best work. I’ve seen agencies be completely revitalised despite losing the pitch. The journey you go on can be so rewarding. The ISBA /IPA six pitch principles really ring true to me. Respect is number one, and being open and transparent throughout the process is critical.

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