Facebook’s “Suggest an Ad” Feature Pulls Text and Images from Web Sites to Create Ads

To help users create their own advertisements on its performance ad system, Facebook has added a new “Suggest an Ad” feature to its Ads Manager tool. Instead of manually entering a title, body text, and photo, users can now enter a destination URL, and Facebook will scrape the site to fill in these fields.

To use the feature, a user first enters their Ads Manager and clicks “Create an Ad”. When they enter a destination URL, a gray button becomes active with the prompt “Suggest an Ad”. Clicking the button with a WordPress blog URL, for example, will pull the web site title as the ad title, the copy from the first blog post’s non-headline text as the body text, and display every image on the site for users to cycle through to select the ad’s image. Users can edit these fields and upload images manually to polish an ad started using the feature.

If the site title is too long, as in our example “Uptown Almanac – San Francisco: Where 20-Somethings go to Retire”, it will be cut down to as many full words will fit under the 25 character limit. This can create an  awkward title like “Uptown Alamanac San”. The same goes for the 135 character limit body text.

The “I want to advertise something I have on Facebook” link brings up a dropdown menu of the Pages and Groups a user is an admin of. Selecting a Page will fill the ad’s title and image with the Page title and profile picture. However, the feature does not import the Page’s About Me, Info or mission statement, leaving the body text section blank. Selecting a Group to advertise doesn’t import anything, making that option useless.

Posting a Facebook URL without selecting the “…on Facebook” option fill the body text with the prompt to join Facebook that those not logged in see, ie “Welcome to the official Facebook Page about Mission Dolores Park. Join Facebook to start connecting with Mission Dolores Park.” This text, or other over-capitalized or punctuated text can trigger a capitalization guidelines warning, telling the user their ad could be rejected unless the text is reformatted.

Once all of an ad’s creative elements are filled in and pass the automatic filters for banned words and punctuation, users see the  standard targeting and bidding options.

The feature could be useful to those first trying Facebook’s self-serve ad tool, especially if they link to a simple site with a logo and a description of the page as the first body text. If it is improved to allow users to cycle through different chunks of a site’s text as the ad body text like they can cycle through photos, it could be an easy way to quickly generate a few ads without the help of more sophisticated, big-campaign tools like Alchemy, or ONE Media Manager. Users are still left to navigate the complex ad targeting options themselves — a gap that could similarly be bridged by a “Suggest a Target” feature, if Facebook .

Getting users comfortable with running self-serve ads will help Facebook further grow the tool as a significant revenue generator, and instill the idea that Facebook is an essential element of ad campaigns large and small.