Traditionally, clicking on a brand’s ad on Facebook would open a dedicated microsite or product catalog hosted outside of Facebook. But Facebook continues to roll out mobile ad formats that bring those off-Facebook experiences inside the social network.
On Thursday, Facebook unveiled a showy new shopping ad format called Collection, the latest addition to the line of immersive, mobile-only ad formats that it introduced with the iAd-like Canvas in September 2015. If Canvas was aimed at brands looking to attract attention, Collection is intended for marketers as concerned with driving awareness as sales.
Collection links eye-catching elements like video to cash-catching ones like a product catalog that, in turn, links to the point of sale on the advertiser’s site or mobile app.
“Collection is, at its core, a new ad experience that we’ve built specifically for news feed, to drive product discovery and sales through an engaging format in a fast-loading shopping experience,” said Facebook’s director of product marketing, Maz Sharafi.
Initially a Collection ad will appear in the news feed highlighted by a large hero photo or video — the splashy type that might appear in the pages of a magazine or on TV — above an array of four catalog-style product photos sourced from the inventory lists that brands can upload to Facebook for their dynamic ad campaigns.
Brands can select the four products to feature themselves or leave it up to Facebook, which will decide based on which products in a brand’s uploaded list are most popular or that it thinks will appeal to the individual seeing the ad, said Sharafi. The video can be either square or horizontal (at a 16:9 aspect ratio); Facebook recommends advertisers avoid using vertical videos in Collection ads. I’m still waiting to hear back from Facebook if there are limits to the video’s length. If a brand opts for a photo instead of a video, the image must be horizontal at a 1.9:1 aspect ratio, and no more than 20 percent of the image can be text.
Clicking on the Collection ad from the news feed will open an actual catalog of up to 50 items that Facebook will pull from the advertiser’s uploaded list based on the ones that are most popular and that a person is most likely to buy, Sharafi said. This product catalog will load instantly because, like Facebook’s Instant Articles, it is hosted within Facebook. Facebook will feature a photo for each item appearing in the catalog, as well as its name and price.
After opening up the product catalog, people can click on an individual item in the Facebook-hosted catalog to pull up its corresponding product page on the advertiser’s site or mobile app.
While advertisers may hope their ads drive people to purchase, that’s not necessarily what they’re paying Facebook for, at least not directly. Advertisers can buy Collection ads based on one of two Facebook ad objectives: traffic or conversions. If a brand picks traffic, then Facebook will charge it based on the number of times people click on the initial ad to open the product catalog. Or if a brand opts for conversions, then Facebook will aim the ad at the people it thinks are most likely to click through to the advertiser’s site or app but will charge the advertiser based on the number of times the ad appeared in people’s news feeds.
It isn’t lost on Facebook that the types of advertisers most likely to buy product-pushing ads — even the flashier, brand-style ones like Collection — will want to see exactly what they’re getting in exchange for what they’re paying. So Facebook will give them a new performance metric to monitor.
Coinciding with the rollout of the Collection format, Facebook will start reporting more precisely the types of clicks that its immersive ad formats, like Collection and Canvas, receive.
There are two types of clicks that a Collection or Canvas ad can elicit. The first is the initial click on the news feed ad that opens a product catalog or Canvas post; the second is the click on that product catalog or Canvas post that opens the advertiser’s site or app. Facebook combines these click counts when telling advertisers how many times people tapped on their ads. That blending may make Facebook’s performance look good, but it also makes it difficult for brands to gauge how successful these ads are at converting people into customers. According to Laura Collins, paid social director at media agency Merkle|Periscopix, only 20 percent of the clicks on Canvas ads lead to the advertiser’s site.
Starting on Thursday, Facebook will test separating those clicks into their respective categories. Link clicks will measure the times people click to open the ad’s immersive experience within Facebook, and outbound clicks will measure the times people click from the ad to visit the advertiser’s site or app. Outbound click counts will not be provided for the organic Canvas posts that brands may publish to their Pages, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
In addition to the Collection and Canvas ads, as part of the test, Facebook will also report outbound clicks for ads running on Instagram that carry links to off-Instagram domains, like a brand’s Facebook Page or the brand’s own site. Eventually, these Instagram-specific outbound click stats will be pruned to only count clicks to a non-Facebook property.
The move to separate clicks to an advertiser’s site or app is meant to offer brands more transparency about their campaigns’ performance. But some advertisers may be wary of Facebook’s outbound clicks measurement in light of the measurement errors Facebook disclosed last year.
The new outbound clicks metric for Canvas, Collection and Instagram ads is similar to the referrals metric that Facebook provides app developers and site owners that use its Analytics for Apps tool and that was revealed as erroneous in November 2016. Instead of only counting the number of times people clicked on a Facebook post to open a developer’s mobile app or visit its site, the metric also included clicks on a Facebook post that did not send people to the developer’s app, such as clicks to enlarge the photo attached to a post. Facebook fixed the referral metrics error in February 2017.