Facebook tests new sidebar ad format with horizontal image above body copy

Facebook is testing a new format for marketplace ads in the right hand column of its desktop site. The new design gives ads an image that stretches across width of the ad and body copy that runs beneath it.

The layout is reminiscent of some of the social network’s new mobile ad formats, such as that for mobile app install ads, which also includes a banner above text. For now, this ad design is only appearing on permanent link pages for posts, not on News Feed, Timeline or other pages.

A spokesperson for the social network said in a statement:

“We are running a small test in the U.S. where some people might see ads in the right-hand column that feature larger images. We have seen that people respond favorably to larger images — both from people and pages — in News Feed, and as such we are testing this out on the right–hand side.”

So far, we’ve also only seen an ad from Modcloth in this format, suggesting that the retailer is working directly with Facebook for this test. Also, according to the URL the ad links to, the ad is part of a campaign called, “facebook_rhstest” — likely standing for “Facebook right hand side test.”

Facebook didn’t share how many advertisers are part of the test, but since the new ads require an image with very different proportions than standard marketplace ads, they require direct participation from advertisers. Other businesses that are currently running ad campaigns will not be affected by the test.

Facebook redesigned its permalink pages this week to place ads on a white background instead of light blue, which had been around for nearly a year.

Another small difference about the ads in the latest test is that the names of a user’s friends are not linked to the users’ Timelines. Instead, clicking anywhere in the ad seems to link out to the advertiser’s website.

In the example we saw, the ad did not include an option to hide it or mark it as spam, similar to Facebook’s mobile app install ads and “Pages You Might Like” ads in the feed, which also lack options for negative feedback. This might be an oversight, not an intentional decision.

If rolled out further, the new ad design could improve performance of right hand side ads, which now have significantly lower clickthrough rates than News Feed-based advertisements. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week on the company’s earnings call that improving the ads it shows was a major focus for the upcoming year. Better targeting and relevance is one way, and new ad formats are another he mentioned.