Facebook Introduces Canvas, an Immersive, Full-Screen Mobile Ad Unit

Facebook Thursday announced the official rollout of its Canvas full-screen immersive advertising product for iOS and Android phones.

Facebook Thursday announced the official rollout of its Canvas full-screen immersive advertising product for iOS and Android phones.

Canvas is currently available to all advertisers, via an easy-to-user, self-service tool in Power Editor, and it creates News Feed ads for users with iOS and Android phones.

Product lead Paresh Rajwat said Facebook is working on expanding Canvas to areas such as Instagram and Facebook Audience Network, but this will likely not occur during the first half of 2016.

The social network said it created Canvas with input from the creative community throughout the entire process, which began in November 2014, adding that the goal was to present advertisers large and small with a “fully customizable digital space on which to build multimedia stories,” allowing them to mix video, photos, text and call-to-action buttons in a fully immersive environment for users.

Facebook chief creative officer Mark D’Arcy announced the launch of canvas at the company’s New York office, stressing that it was “designed, invented and inspired by Facebook’s relationship with the creative community” and calling it “a new space for big ideas.”

Product design manager Jessica Watson said the idea was to “raise the bar for what people and advertisers should see on their mobile phones,” adding that Canvas allows users to become immersed in a full-screen experience, just one click away from News Feed, and that from the advertiser standpoint, constraints were removed and they had “more variables to play with.”

A key on the user side was speed. Much like Facebook’s Instant Articles product for publishers allowed them to avoid the long load times of traditional Web posts, Canvas ads load almost instantaneously for users.

Watson said Facebook and its creative partners wanted Canvas ads to be “fast, fun and rewarding” for users, adding:

Once a user clicks, the advertiser must own 100 percent of the pixels. We wanted Canvas to be easy for all advertisers to build, from local coffee shops to Fortune 500 companies.

Rajwat echoed that theme, saying that the social network and its creative partners “set a goal to make a tool that was so easy and intuitive that even small advertisers can embrace it as easily as Madison Avenue.”

He stressed that Canvas is a self-service tool within Power Editor, and that no coding is required on the part of advertisers, and ditto for new software. The tool also includes real-time mobile previews for advertisers.

Rajwat said in early trials of Canvas ads, 53 percent of users viewed more than one-half of those ads, with an average view time of 31 seconds, rising to around 70 seconds for the top-performing ads.

When asked about Canvas’ impact on Facebook’s ad load and whether Canvas ads would receive higher priority within News Feed, Rajwat said the social network’s ad load would be unaffected, adding that Facebook serves ads based on how people interact and engage, and that there were no special rules for Canvas ads, but “if these ads are amazing, they will automatically start winning in the auction.”

Facebook said in a Facebook for Business post announcing the launch of Canvas:

We’re committed to building great mobile experiences for people, and doing so also opens up new creative possibilities for advertisers. We’ve invested in engaging experiences like video and the carousel format to empower advertisers with more creative space to share their brand and products on mobile. But the website that opens after someone clicks on an ad is often slow to load and not always optimized for mobile, creating a disjointed and frustrating experience for people. And website pages are only growing in file size. In 2015, the average website page was three times bigger than it was in 2011, and slow load times are a top reason people abandon a website.

These trends tell us that advertisers need a better way to share information after people click on their ad, and the information offered after someone clicks needs to load quickly, look beautiful on mobile and allow people to take action easily.

Canvas helps advertisers achieve any objective by giving businesses a fully customizable digital space on which to build multimedia stories. Canvases open from Facebook ads in News Feed to reveal a full-screen experience where advertisers can use a mix of video, still images, text and call-to-action buttons to build beautiful and effective brand and product experiences on mobile.

Within a Canvas, people enjoy moving through digital stories easily. They can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt to view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail, making the Canvas experience immersive and engaging in a way that mobile sites aren’t. And Canvas uses the same technology that makes photos and videos load quickly on Facebook, so it loads as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile Web.

The social network also provided examples of Canvas ads, embedded below, from Burberry, Coca-Cola, ASUS, L’Occitane and Lowe’s.

Wendy’s was one of Facebook’s first advertising partners for Canvas, and its vice president of advertising, Brandon Rhoten, said at the announcement in New York that the fast-food chain’s goal was “to tell our story in a lot of different ways, on a lot of different platforms,” and to create a “really, really slick experience.”

Wendy’s used Canvas to create an ad where one of its cheeseburgers was thoroughly deconstructed, providing details on all of the ingredients in a visually stimulation fashion, and Rhoten said people “fell in love with the ad unit,” adding that it saw an average view time of 65 seconds, and 3 percent of people who viewed the ad clicked on its call-to action button to find a restaurant. He quipped:

Talking about a cheeseburger for over a minute is insanity.

More information about Canvas is available here, with help available here and the option for Power Editor users to get started here.

Readers: What are your initial impressions of Canvas?

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.