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Facebook Tests Mobile Ads That Could Cure Lead-Generation Ills

Holds potential for email marketers, automakers and more

Filling out a form is a two-step process.

Facebook is testing lead-generation-based mobile ads with a few dozen select brands, though it's not sharing the companies' names. If the ads actually work and become a regular marketing product, they will likely be popular with email marketers, financial brands, automakers, insurance companies and real estate players.

The ads let consumers sign up for newsletters or complete forms—think credit card applications, test-drive appointments, price quotes and customer service follow-up calls—with just two taps of the screen. 

"This helps avoid a lot of the pain points usually associated with filling out forms like having to leave one app and start a form in another app and having to enter all of their information from scratch. Just a few taps and people are done," Facebook said in a blog post on Thursday. 

That type of streamlining becomes possible when users allow Facebook to pull contact information—names, email addresses, phone numbers—from their profiles. 

Facebook addressed privacy issues: "People can edit their contact information, and information isn't sent to the business until a person clicks the 'submit button.' Advertisers may only use this information in accordance with their privacy policies, which we make available in the lead ad before people click 'submit.' Advertisers are also restricted from re-selling lead information to third parties."

Assuming that lead-gen ads will be around for a while, it will be interesting to see how enthusiastic email marketers will be. Buying ads to produce sign-ups isn't necessarily a common practice in that world. But for credit card, insurance and automotive brands, the ads seem like a no-brainer—getting consumers with short attention spans to complete forms probably has never been more difficult. 

The lead-gen promos are simply the latest maneuver by Facebook aimed at capturing as much of the growing mobile-advertising market as possible. For instance, earlier this week at Cannes, it unveiled more immersive mobile advertising units built with big brands in mind. 

Facebook's fast-paced moves toward gaining mobile budgets seem well conceived. The global mobile-advertising market will surpass $100 billion in 2016 while accounting for more than 50 percent of all digital ad spends, per eMarketer.

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