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Will Facebook’s mobile ads finally give brands the quality content they’ve wanted?


By Seb Joseph | News editor

September 5, 2015 | 5 min read

Facebook has let loose its latest mobile ads, promising more immersive experiences for users and greater value for advertisers but the format will need to convince both they can have an entire experience within the social network if it is to bring much higher prices than standard News Feed ads.

Director of ads product marketing Kelly Graziadei describes the latest features as a “creative canvas for marketers to develop immersive experiences with native speed and responsive”. It continues the fanfare Facebook first started in June when during Cannes it first gave the industry a glimpse of how it sees mobile advertising to its users eventually turning.

In short, this amounts to an amalgamation of everything the social network thinks works with its existing ads, whittled down into a comprehensive set. From full-screen videos to interactive images and photo carousels, the ads effectively allow for microsite-like experiences without forcing users to leave the platform. It’s a strategy the social network has also adopted with traditional content like news stories. The arrival of Instant Articles earlier this year was billed as a CMS for publishers to host content directly on the social network as well as have the option to it handle ad sales around the posts.

Consequently, it’s easy to see why Facebook is moving in this direction - the ads (and articles) simply look better. This is reflected in the PR for the latest ads, which has gone to great lengths to claim they’re not ad formats and instead an experience that can be used to enhance many existing ads that people will engage with after they click. Testing is at the early stage and there are a very small of marketers involved including Gatorade, Michael Kors, Mr Porter, and Carrefour Spain.

Where Google have aligned their advertising model to the user’s need state, Facebook have always had an interruptive model that’s counter-intuitive to the audience, pushing their users out to third party sites when they want to sit within Facebook and consume content.

“Yes, the new ad format will interest advertisers and their creativity, but it’s the audience’s engagement that is most interesting. Facebook finally has an advertising option that fits with their audience’s need state – effortless engagement and content consumption within the site and app,” said Katrina Lehismae, head of mobile media at Roast.

This is a crucial point for the world’s largest social network when the number of mobile users is outpacing PC users. And yet consumers to date have been underwhelmed by advertisers’ attempts to engage people on smaller screens. Pressure to deliver mobile return through banners and push notifications has failed to encapsulate the customer journey in its entirety and ultimately stunted the growth of the channel.

“Agencies are doing some soul searching right now for what good looks like in digital advertising experiences,” said Wayne Brown managing director of Grey Possible.

“The dominance of the phone as the consumer's primary connection with the internet, means that we need to optimise for that platform first. Obviously the super rich interactive video, desktop based ideas of the past are rapidly losing relevance. So we need to think more about creating rich, app-like advertising in mobile that follows the rules of those devices. Ultimately, these need to be things that consumers want to spend time with, Facebook a clearly looking to take up this challenge.”

But regardless of the shiny ad formats, the question remains around impartiality when it comes to data management.

Lehismae said: “As the social media giant recently announced it will no longer provide device level data back to advertisers via Mobile Measurement Partners (MPPs). This definitely takes away a layer of transparency for advertisers whilst Facebook keeps learning about it's users and building on its targeting capabilities delivering contextually relevant, immersive ad formats.”

Despite the concerns, the new ad formats have been hailed by many agencies; the consensus being that they represent the next step for Facebook given the evolution of user behavior around social networks.

Nathan Barling, global chief data and technology officer at iProspect: “The new ad units generate far more attention than the traditional sponsored posts in the news feed and continue many of the recent additions Facebook has deployed to create more high quality content like cinemagraph ads and their new shopping experience. High quality content not only brings better user engagement, but allows brands to more easily express their brand image onto the platform.”

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