Facebook is apparently poised to get serious about mobile advertising in the near future, as it looks to finally cash in on its whopping audience of 425 million mobile users. But while initial reports have centered on a possible mobile ad rollout in March, advertisers are already poised to start running mobile campaigns on Facebook—without Facebook’s help.
Coors Light and a handful of other advertisers are set to launch mobile Facebook campaigns either this week or next. But instead of working directly with Facebook by buying mobile ad inventory, the campaigns are being sold and implemented by Celtra, a company that aims to become the top rich media vendor in the mobile space.
Per sources, Celtra is set to unveil Rich Media Stories, an ad treatment built on top of the Facebook platform. Here’s how it works: Say a user likes a brand on Facebook or simply interacts with that brand’s Facebook page via a desktop or mobile device. That user, and his or her friends, will start regularly seeing updates from that brand in their News Feed.
That’s not so different than the social effect of an average Facebook campaign. But in this case, the viral effect won't be limited to small text updates. For example, visitors to Coors Light’s mobile Facebook page will encounter a full-fledged rich media brand placement, complete with a unique offshoot of Coors’ current “little coach” TV campaign. There, persons can upload a personal photo from their mobile album and create their own virtual “little coach”—via Celtra’s rich media platform.
Once users create a personal little coach, they can post it as their Facebook status or on their personal wall. Then a small image of that coach will begin appearing in their friends’ News Feeds, whether or not they are fans or have liked Coors Light in the past. The hope is that these fun visual ads—which are designed to not actually appear very ad-like—will have a powerful viral effect. “This is not mobile advertising,” insisted Celtra CEO Mihael Mikek. “Rich Media Stories give brands the ability to give their fans a content creation experience that they can then share with their friends.”
Celtra, working in conjunction with Razorfish, says it’s the first such company to be able to deliver this form of rich media creative via Facebook. But Mikek insisted that his company is not looking to sell banners on Facebook or any traditional media placements. It doesn't aspire to become Facebook's ad network. Advertisers simply pay Celtra to build rich media placements using their products.
"Brands have been posting stories to their Facebook pages for a while," said Mikek. "This just takes that to the next level."
Celtra's rich media ad treatment was actually prematurely leaked to the press—and has since been characterized as Facebook’s first mobile ad rollout all over the Web. But in fact, Facebook isn’t involved at all.
Many expect Facebook’s entrance into the mobile realm is imminent. If indeed Facebook launches Sponsored Stories ads, Mikek sees Celtra Rich Media Stories as a “perfect complement” since brands could theoretically run Sponsored Stories ads which drive users to a Celtra-produced rich media experience. “It’s our understanding that Facebook has its own mobile strategy in the works," Mikek said. "The details of that haven’t been revealed to us or anyone else we’re aware of. Facebook’s plans are completely unrelated to what Celtra is announcing. Celtra’s not building a feature. It’s a serious product that lives on top of the Facebook platform.”