Facebook Canvas Ads – Cool Idea or Can They Actually Work for Your Brand?
by Julie Hauck
Facebook has never been one to rest on its laurels when it comes to making mobile more engaging and effective, and for good reason–mobile ad spend was one of the main drivers behind the company’s $17.93 billion in revenue last year. The social network’s latest foray into the world of mobile innovation is an immersive advertising experience known as Canvas, a smartphone-friendly ad format that enables users to interact with an engaging rich-media display without having to leave Facebook.
So how much attention should brands be paying to Canvas Ads, and will they be worth the extra expense to produce and promote? Below are some points to consider regarding this burgeoning new ad format.
How Do Canvas Ads Work?
Whenever a Facebook user clicks on a Canvas ad unit in their news feed, the ad becomes a full-screen experience that acts as a mini-website (essentially hosted by Facebook), complete with browsable elements. This gives brands a much broader format to be able to tell their story, as users can view videos, scroll, or flip through different elements, and otherwise interact with the ad unit in a way that is much more engaging and immersive.
As a full-screen “takeover” experience, Canvas ads were designed to address the conversion-killing problem of users clicking on ads within Facebook and being taken to websites that are often not mobile-friendly due to slow page load times, poor optimization, etc. Since Canvas is optimized for mobile, it loads quickly on Facebook, boosting the user experience while giving brands a much more expressive and expansive format. In essence, Canvas ad units are “proxy websites” that allow brands to highlight specific products or services in a highly interactive and effective way.
Can Canvas Work for Your Brand?
As can be expected, several heavyweight brands and ad agencies have already tested out the Canvas format, with fairly mixed results. While many brands praised the format for its rich storytelling capability, others expressed concerns about its ability to drive specific actions. At present, Canvas seems to be a fantastic tool for boosting brand awareness, but in terms of direct response, the general consensus from industry insiders is that the new format still leaves much to be desired.
Much of whether or not Canvas ads will be a right fit for your brand will be determined by your marketing objectives. If you’re seeking to increase brand awareness (and you have quite a bit of wiggle room in your advertising budget), Canvas can provide an immersive experience that will connect your target audience to your brand in a way that few other ad formats can. If your goal is to provide users with an in-depth look at the various features and details of a product, Canvas definitely fits the bill for highly detailed virtual product displays.
If you’re looking to drive traffic to your website in order to complete product sales or lead captures, you might want to skip Canvas, as the whole point of this new format is enable brands to promote their products or services without users having to venture outside of Facebook’s virtual borders. Whatever your specific objectives may be, you must carefully consider whether the potential ROI will be worth investing in the additional production resources required to create Canvas ads.
Here are a few quick points to help you take advantage of this exciting new format while staying mindful of your production costs:
- Try crafting your brand’s message using a smart combination of video, text, and images in order to lower the overall cost of production.
- Take advantage of Canvas’s “tilt to pan” functionality (allowing you to tilt your phone to view wider images) by using images that are wide enough to go beyond the border of the device. This allows viewers to explore your images in an interactive manner.
- Select the content medium that makes the most sense for the type of message you’re trying to bring across. For example, ads with a strong storytelling bent are best suited for images and/or video, as these highly visual mediums can often foster deeper emotional connections with the content.
- While this new format offers a wide range of features, do your best to keep things simple and intuitive, so as not to confuse the viewer or dilute your marketing message with a scatterbrained approach.
Should you choose to add Canvas ads to your promotional mix, bear in mind that you might have to experiment quite a bit before you discover what works best for your brand. Just keep the above points in mind when developing your marketing message, and you’ll position your brand to take better advantage of this new and exciting advertising tool.