Facebook designed a tool for brands to build ads optimized for its mobile app. It sounds like a scheme for the platform to make more money, until you realize that it’s free to use and Canvas ads cost no more than the old, interruptive ads they replace. Brock Murray, Director of Web Marketing at digital agency seoplus+, notes, “Ads are still ads. If you hate the presence of advertising on Facebook, making the ads more visible and bigger is not going to play in your favor. However, for everyone else, Facebook Canvas is absolutely a game-changer. Brands that take time to create beautiful content and that respect the discerning tastes of Facebook users will be rewarded. I believe Facebook Canvas is heavily inspired by brand life on Instagram, where authentic, original imagery reigns. Bringing this ethos to Facebook itself but on a grander, more immersive scale is an exciting development for brands that have a product or philosophy worth showing off.”
There’s a lot to the idea that creating a tool to make ads and then giving brands free reign is more like giving them an Instagram account than it is giving them space in the Classifieds section.
Facebook marketing is not just about creating revenue for brands or the social network—it’s about creating a value proposition for ad creators while generating revenue for Facebook and ensuring that the ads don’t scare off its users. Canvas is a big step in the right direction—the content is more amusing and engaging than it ever was in the old “sponsored post” format, and it’s both unabashedly an advertisement (which creates less of the confusion and tuning out that occurs with sponsored posts) and an engaging new format that’s only available to brands.
By virtue of being new and different, Canvas will generate a lot of clicks and interest. But its staying power lies in the way it presents itself and users interact with it.
Because Canvas ads are bigger, bolder, and unlike anything else on Facebook, they catch users’ attention while creating new, invaluable metrics for marketers. Jerilyn Soncrant, Product Manager of Social Media and Ads at Go Digital Marketing, shares her firsthand experience with Canvas. “We’ve been testing a Canvas ad for a couple weeks and we definitely think it’s a game changer,” she says. “It’s bringing the beautiful photo experience of Instagram to Facebook. Canvas is an experience that means more than just a click on an ad. When someone clicks on our Canvas, they are actively engaging in our messaging and want to learn more about our brand. This engaged consumer translates to more qualified leads and drives more value for our ads. We can track how long a consumer is engaging with our ad versus the standard click. Canvas also allows us to drive more brand awareness and really educate our consumers.”
With new insights and more thorough brand messaging opportunities, Canvas is a huge deal for brands looking to share who they really are with mobile app users who are hungry for innovative content delivery channels.
As for the repeated mention of Canvas bringing some Instagram flavor to the Facebook world, there’s no question that parent company Facebook has been wondering how it can monetize its hip, photo-first younger brother and all of its unique learnings. No better way to do that than to bring the cachet of the almost exclusively mobile app to the increasingly mobile version of Facebook. Canvas is Facebook’s answer to square formats and filters. It offers brands ways to use a set of parameters and tools to create an infinite combination of things that ultimately all fit into the specifications the platform has set. This ensures a quality user experience, even when a Canvas ad is expanded to show all of its features. It also provides brands a new slate on which to experiment that has built-in guidelines and offers fresh opportunities.
Oren Greenberg, Founder of digital marketing agency Kurve, believes so. “Canvas has all it needs to be a game changer,” Greenberg says. “Canvas’ features leave room for a more interactive experience that can bring value to customers. If marketers begin using it wisely and creatively, together with relevant, non-overly-promotional content, the user experience can be brought to a level of entertainment. Marketers need to see Canvas as a publishing tool with an ad twist to it. The ability to create multiple call-to-action buttons, mixed with different types of media in a mobile-first environment gives marketers the opportunity to explore storytelling beyond visual experience.”
The beauty and entertainment aspects of Canvas cannot be overstated. While the feature is limited to enterprises, it’s hardly the same thing as putting some hokey ad on a billboard. Instead, it feels like a weirdly fun way to click through a bunch of interactive, entertaining stuff that secretly teaches you about a brand the same way those old typing computer games used to secretly teach you how to type better while you tried to get to the moon faster.
I can’t decide if Canvas gets to be called native content or not. On one hand, the feature is only available to paid advertisers. On the other, it’s a mini-platform that was designed by Facebook to be an integral part of the Facebook mobile app, and its results are often fun and beautiful. One thing’s for sure—clickbait has some stiff competition, and this stuff is much prettier and more interactive than that “one weird trick” some mom in your area discovered.