In early 2016, Facebook rolled out its richest ad experience yet, Canvas Ads. Through a combination of video, carousel, and still images, Canvas Ads give advertisers unparalleled real estate and opportunity to engage viewers. Finally, brand advertisers pleas for more options - ones they were used to in a TV or print-first world - were answered. Until now, a full-screen experience equipped with interactive features was unheard of in the world of social media brand advertising.
But, if you think Canvas Ads bear an uncanny resemblance to another popular mobile product, you're not alone.
We would argue that Facebook built this ad unit heavily based on the core user interface of another company, Snapchat. Specifically, Snapchat's immersive product, Stories, which lines up multiple images or videos in a sequential manner.
Much attention has been given to Facebook's generous adoption of Snapchat's unique experiences on the consumer side in Instagram Stories and Messenger Day. But, it seems many have missed this play that Facebook ran on their ad product, too.
Facebook knows that ads that look like ads aren't always well received, and sometimes don't perform. That's why they've made it a pattern to offer ad units that follow organic behavior and styles. Shortly after Facebook's shift to a feed, ads showed up in-line. After a massive organic video push, mobile vide app installs came along. The lesson is clear: If you see Facebook pushing something, it's likely that ads and ad units inspired from the experience will show up next.
Which leads us to look forward, and ask:
What popular consumer product experiences will show up in ad units next?
Since Facebook has shown a willingness to transform consumer experiences into ad experiences, what products could Facebook take inspiration from next?
1. Games → Playable/interactive ad units
Recently, Google has been testing this out with game clients by offering a taste of the game before purchasing. The sample game ends and the viewer is confronted with a CTA button urging a conversion. There have been rumblings about Facebook about following in Google’s footsteps and beginning to launch playable ad units.
2. Bitmoji → Branded stickers/emoji
Bitmoji has taken mobile by storm, claiming the #1 spot for fastest growing apps. The second, universal digital language created by emojis creates an interesting opportunity for Facebook advertising.
3. Filters/Masks → Branded options like on Snapchat
The infamous filter/mask feature put Snapchat on the map and we think Facebook may use this to better engage users on Instagram stories. The Instagram story format currently does not feature branded filters yet, but this is likely the direction Instagram will take in better engaging viewers and brands via stories.
4. Live → Branded Live Feeds
This prediction also is based off Snapchat. While the Discover page serves as the primary source of displaying branded content, brands can still own their own Snapchat and post stories to be shown to users who follow their account. Instagram is also breaking into this trend. We anticipate Facebook pushing sponsored live content from brands that may resonate more with viewers and feel more personal.
5. Augmented Reality → Augmented Reality Ads
Augmented reality is a realistic market to enter for Facebook ads because of highly-engaging content that will enchant viewers, as recently proven by Pokemon Go. Facebook is already thinking along these lines with it's acquisition of Oculus for VR, and is slowing using visual styles from here in 360 video ads.
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