Facebook attempts to ‘up the bar’ in mobile advertising with Canvas launch

Facebook is renewing its commitment to mobile advertising with the launch of Canvas, an immersive ad feature that allows brands to tell “more compelling stories” and therefore improve engagement with consumers.

Canvas ads will appear in consumers’ news feeds. Once they click through, the ad will result in an “immersive, full-screen experience”. Users can interact with the ad vertically and horizontally, and also allows brands to include different types of content including video, still images, text and call-to-action buttons. The feature is available for both Android and iOS.

Jessica Watson, product design manager at Facebook, speaking at an event in London yesterday (25 February) to announce the new ad format, said that even though other ad features like Carousel, which allows consumers to swipe through content, provide engaging experiences to consumers, brands are keen to have more freedom when it comes to mobile ads.

She explained: “We talked to a lot of creative agencies and other partners and they told us that there is a need for a new space without constraints, with more variables to play with and to create a more interactive experience. Now, advertisers are able to choose the components they want to use so that they can tell their most compelling story.”

Figures supplied by Facebook show that the average viewing time is 31 seconds, increasing to 70 seconds for “top Canvases”. Facebook also claims that  53% of people view more than half of a Canvas clip.

Battling slow loading times

The social media giant is also keen to improve another common problem with mobile advertising – slow loading times, which lead people to abandon websites. It has also been blamed for the rise of ad blocking.

“When you click on mobile websites, it often takes more than five seconds to load, which means people are wasting precious time trying to look at content they are interested in. So we knew the experience had to be fast and we had to deliver content as quickly as possible,” Watson says.

According to the company, Canvas was purposely built within Facebook so it loads as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web. So far, a few brands have tested the content, including luxury retailers Burberry and Gucci.

Upping the creative bar

Rob Newlan, head of Creative Shop at Facebook, told Marketing Week that the new feature has “upped the bar” for mobile advertising, but that it has also improved the general user experience.

“We’re seeing people wanting to have a quick experience, watching a ton of video and we see people respond to images in brilliant ways. And then if users want to have a deeper experience, being able to build an application [like Canvas] for mobile in a way that is complimentary to the medium, is great.

“It’s about [Facebook] having that range. A person might respond to a GIF, which is great, but that person might also respond to an immersive experience, which is good as well. It’s a range that becomes more interesting to brands and users.”

The new ad product launch shows the brand’s renewed commitment to mobile advertising. Figures released by the company show that mobile advertising represented approximately 80% of its total advertising revenue for the fourth quarter of 2015, up from 69% a year previously. Meanwhile, mobile daily active users were 934 million on average for December 2015, an increase of 25% year-on-year.


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