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“I came in with eyes wide open. I knew that this was challenging,” said Antonio Lucio upon taking the role of Facebook chief marketing officer. After two years at a company rarely out of the headlines, that may have been an understatement. The marketing veteran has now announced he is leaving the social giant to spend the twilight of his career forwarding “diversity, inclusion and equity” in the ad industry.

Lucio, previously of HP, Visa and PepsiCo, joined just six months after the trust-shattering Cambridge Analytica scandal which had many of the users Facebook ‘connected’ wondering how lax it was with their data.

Electoral interference, misinformation concerns and malfunctioning metrics were some of the other issues colouring Facebook's reputation which Lucio had to navigate during his time in post. "Rebuilding trust is going to take time. Rebuilding trust is going to take concrete, strong actions," he told The Drum in 2019, admitting "this is not going to be an overnight turnaround in any way".

Outlining his playbook for the role, Lucio said: “The reason why I joined is because I was able to perceive between Mark [Zuckerberg] and Sheryl [Sandberg] and the senior members of the company the need for change and they talked about addressing our fundamental issues around electoral interference, misinformation, privacy and data and data management."

Lucio departs in the same summer that Facebook has faced an advertiser boycott which has seen more than 1,000 brands temporarily abandon the platform over its hate speech and misinformation policies. Despite this high-profile revolt, its own marketing, particularly to small businesses, continues to be broadly effective in winning business. Its latest financials showed an 11% growth in revenue in the second quarter, in spite of the boycott, with SMEs continuing to account for the bulk of ad spend on the platform.

The Drum reflects on Lucio's output.

Lucio’s legacy

  • Lucio’s remit was to tell “the story of Facebook’s brands, products and services more transparently”. One of his most significant moves was to restructure an agency roster that reads like a who's who of the industry's biggest names – Wieden + Kennedy, Publicis’ Leo Burnett, WPP's Ogilvy, Omnicom's BBDO, and Accenture's Droga5.

  • He rolled out corporate rebrands and a new logo at the end of 2019. This new branding was plastered across sister apps like WhatsApp, Oculus, Instagram, Messenger and hardware Portal ahead of the anti-competition narrative calling for their break-up.

  • Recent marketing drives include ‘Never Lost’ and ‘Born In Quarantine’ but most famously in February 2020, it pushed its Groups feature in its first Super Bowl ad.
     

What’s next?
 

  • Lucio's work is not done and Facebook has a CMO-shaped hole to fill at this vital crossroads in its history. It must continue with the marketer's mission of “transparency” to show that it is addressing the hate and misinformation being super-fueled by its algorithms, especially as a divisive US election looms. To this end, it recently upped its community enforcement reports and showed how it performed during the pandemic.

  • On leaving and his next steps, Lucio said it is “a time for reckoning for the nation and my industry," adding: “It has been a very challenging year for all and an especially reflective year for me, following the passing of my mother before the lockdown.”

  • He said he was “grateful to Mark [Zuckerberg] for his curiosity, support and commitment, and for always listening attentively even when we disagreed. I believe in Facebook’s mission, and Covid-19 demonstrated the platforms at their best. As the company evolves, striking the right balance between preserving freedom of speech and eliminating hateful speech on the platforms is a generation-defining question that must continue to be addressed. I know the company and its leadership agree on the centrality of this important task.”

  • Lucio's new and probably “final chapter” is in helping ad land address its diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.