Facebook’s shoppable ‘Collection’ ad is its latest iAd-like format

Clicking on a brand’s ad on Facebook would open a dedicated microsite / product catalog hosted outside of Facebook. But FB continues to roll out mobile ad formats that bring these off-Facebook experiences inside the social network.

Collection links eye-catching features like video to cash-catching ones like a product catalog that, in turn, links to the point of sale on the advertiser’s site / mobile app.

“Collection is a new ad experience that we have built specifically for news feed, to drive product discovery & sales through an engaging format in a fast-loading shopping experience,” said FB’s director of product marketing, Maz Sharafi.

Initially a Collection ad would appear in the news feed highlighted by a great hero photo / video — the splashy type that might appear in the pages of a magazine / on TV — above an array of four catalog-style product photos sourced from the inventory lists that brands can upload to FB for their dynamic ad campaigns.

Brands can select the 4 products to feature themselves or leave it up to FB, which will decide based on which products in a brand’s uploaded list are most popular / that it thinks would appeal to the individual seeing the ad, said Sharafi. The video can be either square or horizontal; Facebook recommends advertisers avoid using vertical videos in Collection ads. I am still waiting to hear back from Facebook if there’re 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% of the image can be text.

Clicking on the Collection ad from the news feed would open an actual catalog of up to 50 items that FB will pull from the advertiser’s uploaded list based on the ones that are most popular & that a person is most likely to buy, Sharafi said. This product catalog can load instantly because, like Facebook’s Instant Articles, it is hosted within Facebook. Facebook will feature a photo for every item appearing in the catalog, as well as its name & price.

After opening up the product catalog, people could click on an individual item in the FB-hosted catalog to pull up its corresponding product page on the advertiser’s site / mobile app.

While advertisers may hope their ads drive people to purchase, that is not necessarily what they’re paying Facebook for, at least not directly. Advertisers could buy Collection ads based on one of two Facebook ad objectives: traffic or conversions. If a brand picks traffic, then FB will charge it based on the number of times people click on the initial ad to open the product catalog. If a brand opts for conversions, then FB would aim the ad at the people it thinks are most likely to click through to the advertiser’s site / app but will charge the advertiser based on the number of times the ad appeared in everyone’s news feeds.

It is not lost on Facebook that the types of advertisers likely to buy product-pushing ads — the flashier, brand-style ones like Collection — will want to see exactly what they are getting in exchange for what they’re paying. So FB will give them a new performance metric to monitor.

Coinciding with the rollout of the Collection format, FB will start reporting more precisely the types of clicks that its immersive ad formats, like Collection & Canvas, receive.

There are 2 types of clicks that a Collection or Canvas ad could elicit. The first is the initial click on the news feed ad that opens a product catalog / Canvas post; the second is the click on that product catalog / Canvas post that opens the advertiser’s site or app. FB combines these click counts when telling advertisers how many times people tapped on their ads. That blending may make FB’s performance look good, but it makes it difficult for brands to gauge how successful those ads are at converting people into customers. Due to Laura Collins, paid social director at media agency Merkle|Periscopix, only 20% of the clicks on Canvas ads lead to the advertiser’s site.

Starting on Thursday, FB will test separating those clicks into their respective categories. Link clicks will measure the times everyone clicks to open the ad’s immersive experience within FB, and outbound clicks will measure the times people click from the ad to visit the advertiser’s site / app. Outbound click counts will not be provided for the organic Canvas posts that brands might publish to their Pages, according to a FB spokesperson.

In addition to the Collection & Canvas ads, as part of the test, Facebook will report outbound clicks for ads running on Instagram that carry links to off-Instagram domains, such as a brand’s Facebook Page or the brand’s own site. Eventually, these Instagram-specific outbound click stats can be pruned to only count clicks to a non-FB property.

The move to separate clicks to an advertiser’s site / app is meant to offer brands more transparency about their campaigns’ performance. But advertisers may be wary of Facebook’s outbound clicks measurement in light of measurement errors Facebook disclosed last year.

The new outbound clicks metric for Canvas, Collection & Instagram ads is similar to the referrals metric that Facebook supports app developers and site owners that use its Analytics for Apps tool & that was revealed as erroneous in November 2016. Instead of only counting the number of times people clicked on a FB post to open a developer’s mobile app or visit its site, the metric included clicks on a Facebook post that did not send people to the developer’s app, like clicks to enlarge the photo attached to a post. FB fixed the referral metrics error in February 2017.



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