Michael Bürgi and Seb Joseph contributed reporting to this piece.
For major advertisers, Carolyn Everson has been the face of Facebook — making the rounds at industry events like Advertising Week and Cannes Lions, putting in face time with CEOs and CMOs as well as managing apology tours for the platform — over the last decade.
That’s no longer the case now. Everson, Facebook’s global ads chief, announced via a Facebook status update earlier this week that she had left the company. It’s unclear what Everson’s next move will be. Her departure follows a shakeup with Facebook’s c-suite: chief revenue officer David Fisher is slated to leave Facebook later this year. The company announced it would not fill his role but instead create a new position, chief business officer, tapping vp of global partnerships Marne Levine for the new gig.
Advertisers and agency execs said that Everson’s departure was unexpected and likely a result of being passed over for the role. At the same time, they believe it’s likely that Everson had grown tired of dealing with the company’s controversies, i.e. being on the “clean up squad,” and that she is likely ready for a new chapter. In the interim, head of the EMEA region for Facebook’s global business group Nicola Mendelsohn will take over Everson’s duties. Representatives for Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for clarification or comment; Everson did not immediately respond to a Facebook message.
Everson’s relationships with major CEOs and CMOs, where she was known for listening and being an advocate for advertisers, helped build Facebook into the advertising juggernaut that it is today, according to advertisers, agency execs and ad buyers who say that losing Everson is a massive blow for the company. That’s not to say ad buyers expect an impact in advertising revenue for the platform with Everson’s departure — major advertisers account for less than roughly 20% of total ad revenue anyway — but that losing Everson as the face of the company for the ad industry will be difficult.
“Carolyn has been such a huge part of Facebook’s success over the last decade and will be a big loss for the company,” said David Jones, founder and CEO of You & Mr. Jones, who was a member of the original Facebook client council. “She was incredibly well-liked and trusted by the world’s largest global advertisers. Nicola [Mendelsohn] has big shoes to fill but if anyone can fill them she can.”
Bill Koenigsberg, founder, president and CEO of Horizon Media, echoed that sentiment: “Facebook is all about connecting communities, but no one was better at connecting Facebook to our industry than Carolyn. She has the trust and the transparency of agencies and marketers.”
Everson joined Facebook in 2011 year as vp of global ad sales after holding c-suite level roles at companies such as Microsoft Corporation and Viacom.
“She was the ultimate schmoozer and that’s reflected in the outpouring of support from CMOs following the news of her exit,” said an agency planner who requested anonymity. “She’d take clients out, send them expensive gifts on birthdays and send a clown to the hospital their sick kid was in. If Carolyn was in Hollywood, she’d be a super agent for someone like Will Smith.”
Aside from her schmoozing abilities, advertisers, ad buyers and agency execs say that losing Everson’s ability to manage public controversies like the Cambridge Analytica scandal (in which user data was secretly shared by the company without their consent) as well as inflated video metrics that some ad buyers seemed to shrug off at the time, will make it a particularly difficult loss. Despite a mass boycott of big-name brands last summer, Everson and the team retained the core strength of its ad business in small business dollars.
“In a world when Facebook has stumbled a few times, they’ve now lost the one person who best-cleaned things up,” said Koenigsberg. “I think they’ve underestimated just how important that is. Having led not one but three apology tours for the company, she’s proven that she’s a woman of integrity. She simply can’t be replaced.”
Despite her close relationships with CEOs and CMOs of major advertisers as well as a reputation as a public persona for the platform, agency execs and ad buyers believe that there won’t be an impact on ad dollars flowing to the platform as middle managers work with major advertisers and small businesses likely weren’t dealing with Everson.
While some believe Everson will be able to land any job she wants next, others believe she has been an obfuscator of some of Facebook’s scandals and an expert deflector after being the face of apology tours for years that could be a ding to her reputation.
“She’s responsible for one of the top two global ad revenue growth stories,” said Matt Prohaska, CEO and principal, Prohaska Consulting. “But she’s also had to handle something like 15 mistakes of over-reporting video measurement and performance that resulted in having to credit advertisers. That’s part of the push-pull, love-hate so many of us in the industry share about Facebook and its continued unchecked growth and power.”