Facebook: Local CEO won't be a US drone

By By Paul McIntyre | 24 August 2012
Liam Walsh.

While Facebook's Australian operation might be force-fed its mandate from the US, it knows the value of having a talented local head, admitting the search for a new chief executive might spill into next year before it finds the right person.

Several high-profile corporate marketers and media executives are said to have been among the line-up of possible chief executives for the Australian operation, although the company would not comment on candidates.

Facebook officially announced two weeks ago that former Microsoft and Fairfax executive Liam Walsh had been appointed director of commercial development and sales and acting country head, but the company was still looking for a chief executive.

Facebook’s Asia Pacific vice president, Erik Johnson, told AdNews the social media juggernaut – under pressure in the US after its recent IPO – had “set the bar high” for a chief executive who needed to be across broader strategic, government and media industry developments.

“At the end of the day you’re right, the strategy for the company as a whole is set in the US as an American company,” Johnson said.

“But the way we decide how we want to bring products to market is something we decide here. We have a sales team here which does a great job of selling those things but we also want to take a look at the market more holistically and really understand where the opportunities might exist above and beyond what we might be doing today. We need to think about whether the products fit or don’t fit. We need to look at how we as Facebook provide what this market needs. [The search for a chief executive] could go into next year – ideally not, but you never know.”

Walsh said there had been a strong response from Australian media buyers and advertisers in recent weeks to Facebook’s move to ‘unbundle’ advertising schedules on mobile devices from desktops and that the larger ad formats Facebook was offering on its log-out page were in high demand, particularly for video ad campaigns.

“We see 2.6 million people log out everyday in Australia,” Walsh said. “It is huge.”

Johnson or Walsh would not comment on Facebook’s revenue in Australia – said to be approaching $100 million – but claimed usage of the website by Australians was increasing. The company’s official active user base here is around 11.5 million and time spent each month on the site by Australians has increased from 7.5 hours 18 months ago to more than 8 hours today, according to Facebook.

This article first appeared in the 24 August 2012 edition of AdNews. Click here to subscribe for more news, features and opinion.

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