Facebook to Simplify Ad Units, Soon

Facebook briefed analysts and reporters last week about an effort to simplify both the number of ad choices and the flow by which advertisers reach customers. Most of the rollout will occur between now and the end of the 3rd quarter of this year, though some products will disappear within the next few weeks.

Facebook product managers explained that advertisers currently have 27 choices when deciding how to reach their market on Facebook, from Page Posts to Promoted Posts to Offers. They are looking to reduce the total number by roughly half. The crux of the move is meant to help marketers to reach their objectives more easily, without having to choose different ad units, according to Facebook Product Marketing Director Brian Boland. “Advertisers want to drive business outcomes and measure effectiveness of their campaigns. If we make it easier for an advertiser to pick the right audience, and the right format, it also improves user experience by putting more relevant information in front of user.” This means that the right ad, to the right customer, at the right time, should get better response and be more relevant.

While Facebook didn’t show reporters the actual workflow, the idea is that marketers will be able to decide on an objective, such as increasing Page Likes or driving app installs, and Facebook will recommend the correct type of ad unit and the type of targeting.  As an example, if you created a Page photo post this week, you would also want to create a sponsored story so that a user “liking” it would cause the ad to show for their friends. The new workflow will just “provide the ad with social context on top.” No extra steps to purchase different units.

According to Fidji Simo, Product Manager for Ads, they’ll be removing the Questions product for Pages in July because marketers can simply ask a question in a post and get answers in comments. They’ll also be removing the online Offers product in favor of Post Adslinking to an online site, but the in-store promotion Offers product will remain. This element was confusing, because companies that have both online and in-person presences will now have to run 2 different kinds of ad units – an offer for those coming to the store, and a Page Post ad linking to the online offer. This seems to go against the simplification trend. When I asked this question during Q&A, there was not a clear response.

Facebook will be also be making the creative unit sizes more consistent, to allow companies to provide fewer sizes of art and copy to create ads. The ads themselves will be more consistent on the desktop and in mobile. There’s also a implication that, since mobile is now where over 30% of Facebook’s revenue is derived, and on Mobile there is no right hand column, having ad unit sizes be more consistent helps solve some interface challenges.

This briefing was clearly the start of a discussion about how Facebook advertising will change over the next few months, and a way to prepare reporters and businesses for a group of small announcements and changes that will happen over time. You can read Facebook’s official release and see their graphic examples at their newsroom site.