Facebook just announced a big push to monetise its next billion users: It’s opening an ad sales office in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Right now, Facebook has about 120 million active users in Africa. That’s a 20% increase from September 2014, but still only a small percentage of the more than one billion people who live there.
The company has been steadily increasing its African audience thanks in part to the efforts of Internet.org, the Facebook-led non-profit that works with local cellular carriers to make select services — including, of course, Facebook — free or cheaper to use for people in different parts of the world.
Now, as Facebook continues to push its product to those new users, its ad sales team will be in the area finding out the best way to turn those individuals into dollar signs. As of last quarter, international now makes up a whopping 52% of the Facebook’s total ad revenue.
Part of the new sales team’s challenge will be figuring out how to tailor its products to the Africa’s unique needs. More than 80% of the continent’s 120 million users access Facebook from their mobile phones.
Not only are these users mobile-only, but they’re usually using bare-bones “feature” phones or “typical” Android smartphones (Facebook refuses to call them “low-end”). That means that advertisers need to make sure their products are easy to understand and to view no matter the screen size or resolution.
Facebook has been working on this problem already, by sending its engineers on expeditions to foreign countries and through a dedicated “empathy” room in its HQ that simulates the sluggish wireless connections that many experience abroad. It launched a Creative Accelerator program earlier this year to help advertisers think of unique ways for advertisers to connect with regional audiences.
For example, Facebook has created a “missed call” product in India where people can avoid using their data plan by clicking on an ad on Facebook mobile and then having the advertiser pay the data costs of sending them some sort of content, like music or a celebrity message. In Kenya, Facebook worked with Coke to create a mobile-optimised but still visually rich ad campaign that it says increased recall by 18%.
Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke, formerly of the ad agency Ogilvy, will spearhead Facebook’s Africa efforts.
“This new office is a significant milestone for Facebook and our teams want to partner with businesses across the continent,” Facebook’s VP of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) said in a statement about the opening. “Africa is important to Facebook, and this office is a key part of our strategy to expand our investment and presence across EMEA.”