Facebook Is Testing Ads in Search on Its Mobile Apps and Marketplace

Auto and retail/ecommerce companies in the U.S. and Canada are involved

Ads may soon be coming to the search function on Facebook's mobile apps Getty Images
Headshot of David Cohen

Two new stations may soon be added to the Facebook monetization train line.

The social network revealed today that it is running a small test of ads in search results on its flagship mobile applications—both in its primary search function and its Marketplace ecommerce section.

Jonathan Yantz, senior biddable manager at performance marketing agency M&C Saatchi Performance, doesn’t expect backlash from users if these ad units are rolled out, saying, “Users are already used to seeing ads across Facebook at this point, so it is unlikely to be jarring to see them present in search or Marketplace. In fact, users who are on the Marketplace pages are already in a shopping mindset, so ads—especially those that are ecommerce—or product-focusedؙ—could actually be a boon and, overall, a good feature for the platform to explore.”

Select advertisers in the automotive and retail/ecommerce industries are participating in the test, and it is currently limited to the U.S. and Canada. At this stage, advertisers in the test group aren’t paying for the search placements.

Brands that are part of the test group can select the Search placement in Ads Manager, after which their ads may appear in searches for terms related to their offerings—auto brands will appear in car-related searches and retailers and ecommerce brands in searches related to those sectors. Advertisers do not have the option of selecting specific keywords or phrases.

MediaCom chief digital and investment officer Steve Carbone said of the test, “It is also a good way to integrate search behaviors into Facebook, mimicking what Pinterest has already done successfully. That said, those platforms each have their own unique offering within the user experience, so it will be interesting to see how this new touch point performs on Facebook, in particular.”

As for the ads themselves, the format is similar to mobile News Feed ads—the same headline, image and text format—and they are clearly labeled with the Sponsored tag.

Only static images with links and carousel ads with images are part of the test thus far, and video ads are not.

Yantz stressed that ads in Facebook search must remain in context with what the user is trying to discover, saying, “People are likely to use Facebook search in a different way than they use Google. They are searching Facebook for friends, events, pages and apps, so it is important that the ad opportunities align. These ads will make the most sense for discovery of brands (new brands, repositioning, new movies, etc.), promoted events or promoted apps, aligning them with the kind of searches users intend to perform.”

Speaking about the Marketplace component of the test, Carbone said, “We can assume that brands will be able to use signals and search behaviors to connect consumers at various life moments to share messaging that is search-adjacent or complimentary. For example, if someone was searching for cribs, brands may use that behavior to message relevant consumer-packaged-goods products, baby clothes, etc.”

Users who see the ads will have access to the same transparency and controls as other ads on the platform, such as, “Why Am I Seeing This?

Product manager Zoheb Hajiyani said, “We’re running a small test to place ads in Facebook search results, and we’ll be evaluating whether these ads are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand.”


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