With Facebook’s News Feed Changes, Canvas Ads Take Center Stage

Opinion: An alternative landing page, with incredibly quick load time

Facebook Canvas ads
Facebook

With the announcement of the recent Facebook News Feed changes, which place emphasis on content from individual users over posts from brands, one thing is clear: Brands will not have as much organic reach as they once did.

Brands will be looking for ways to stand out and reach consumers who aren’t already “fans” that seek out their organic content. As pay-to-play becomes the new norm, the effectiveness of ad engagement is more important than ever. While it’s a seemingly dramatic change for advertisers, they do have tools (on Facebook) that can help them create compelling ads that will grab users’ attention.

Drum roll, please: Canvas ads. These changes signify an important time for Facebook Canvas ads, in particular, because it’s a format that lets advertisers tell a story. And stories drive engagement, reaching audiences effectively.

While not new—it has been around for nearly two years—Canvas is complex, and many advertisers may not yet be fully familiar with all of the benefits and opportunities the format offers them.

The beauty of Canvas ads

Canvas offers a pathway to show consumers what truly differentiates their brand. It’s an expandable, full-screen mobile ad that acts like a brand landing page directly on Facebook.

So much of the value in the format is the creative leeway and versatility it offers, helping advertisers make ads actionable, interactive and slick branded experiences. It lets them showcase elements of their brand—like specific products, lifestyle images or videos, or a behind-the-scenes look at how the brands create those products or how users use them—to tell those stories through a mobile ad unit.

The beauty of the Canvas format is that it lays the groundwork for everything you could need in an interactive ad—elements like images, text, video, carousels, slide shows and even store locator buttons—moving so far beyond the single-image-and-copy ad.

These are all elements that the News Feed changes call for: relevance, personalization and rich elements that spark engagement.

Canvas also serves as almost a digital storefront window for shoppers, giving them that discoverable shopping experience they might have in-store, browsing different merchandise.

But there’s more scale in a digital Canvas ad than in the physical world, and it offers better targeting, especially with the advent of technology platforms that support the Canvas API (application-programming interface). It also drives top-of-the-funnel advertising, where brands capture interest via Canvas and then use remarketing tactics on another platform, like email. Facebook itself offers custom audiences for Canvas that can serve as a great remarketing tool.

Unexpected value and uses for Canvas ads

With well-documented challenges like the average mobile landing page taking 22 seconds to load and one-half of people leaving mobile landing pages if they take longer than three seconds, Canvas presents an unexpected solution for brands and advertisers. For some brands, it serves as a browsable mini-site on mobile to drive discovery and purchases—an alternative landing page, with incredibly quick load time.

Using Canvas this way reduces the risk of losing a consumer when they click out of an ad and move to a mobile site: The Canvas experience reaches consumers where they’re already spending time and brings them a step closer to purchase. It allows for more discovery—and action-taking—right within the flow of Facebook.

When thinking about the News Feed changes, holding consumers’ attention with a nearly-end-to-end customer journey inside a single Facebook ad unit is a game-changer.

For example, Smartly.io customer Wonderbly recreated its homepage as a Canvas ad on Facebook because it could get Canvas ads up faster than brand-new landing pages and because it found that Canvas had better levels of engagement than its own site performance.

Wonderbly cited its ability to narrate through Canvas as a reason why the ad unit has performed well. Its products—personalized children’s books—are difficult to convey with images alone.

Using Canvas as the mobile landing page is a resource-saver, enabling paid advertising teams to create mobile landing pages and ad campaigns at the same time for quicker testing and iteration. Canvas is also simpler and lighter design-wise compared with many other mobile landing pages—some brands like Bark (makers of the Barkbox subscription box for dogs) have even found it useful to simply replicate some of the Canvas design elements in their own mobile landing pages.

Ultimately, it’s a new era on Facebook for brands, and it’s in advertisers’ best interests to understand both the clear use case and unexpected value that the Canvas format offers. It’s a format that allows them to reach new audiences, drive top-of-the-funnel engagement and think bigger and bolder than ever before when it comes to the advertising content they produce.

Amir Shub is general manager, Americas at Facebook and Instagram advertising platform Smartly.io.

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