In the world of digital advertising, 2012 seems like eons ago. But here’s a stat you might remember – widely quoted surveys revealed that between 44% and 57% of users said they never clicked on a Facebook ad. Those numbers made a lot of sense at the time, because I too had never clicked a Facebook ad.
Back then, Custom Audiences were unheard of, Promoted Posts were still in testing, and News Feed ads had just hit the scene. I didn’t have a smartphone, so my only point of access was my college laptop. And since I didn’t go wild liking things and curating my interests, Facebook didn’t have nearly as much data on me.
[caption id="attachment_6938" align="alignleft" width="500" style="margin-bottom:30px"]
Sponsored Stories began regularly appearing in News Feed in 2012[/caption]
Lots of Change in a Short Time
Fast forward a couple years, and I was still holding out even as Facebook ads were getting infinitely better. There were captivating images, personalized products (think of those New York Girl in a California World style t-shirts based on lives in/from settings), and videos all over the place.
Then I saw them. A beautiful pair of Warby Parker glasses regretfully abandoned in my cart the previous day, staring at me from the News Feed in the form of a savvy retargeting ad. And I finally clicked.
[caption id="attachment_6940" align="alignnone" width="500"]
A sampling of Facebook ads from popular eyewear retailer Warby Parker[/caption]
What’s Changed, Exactly? And Where Do We Go from Here?
A few points come to mind here.
First, Facebook ads have become increasingly effective thanks to:
- More and better data
- Maturing business goals and objectives (remember all those campaigns just for likes?)
- The ubiquitous nature of mobile matched with cross-device capabilities
- A host of powerful ad types
For advertisers, this means greater flexibility and lots of opportunity.
Second, in the words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility. When it comes to advertising and the user experience, just because marketers can doesn’t mean we should. Loud or distracting pop-ups, impossible-to-find close buttons, and ads that slow pages to a halt, I’m looking at you. These are the things that drive users crazy and lead to ad blockers.
In fact, the IAB recently stated, “we messed up” following recent concerns about ad blocking, and issued new standard advertising principles to guide the next phase of online advertising. They’re worth a read.
Third, Facebook has largely evaded the trouble of painful user experiences and the resulting uptick in ad blocking. Why? I would argue that the best ads are often native to the user experience and genuinely helpful in nature. Facebook accomplishes this by integrating ads seamlessly into the overall experience, and by providing ad type and targeting options that allow marketers to deliver highly personalized and relevant content.
Fourth, the innovation that powers these high-quality ads has been evolving at a rapid clip, and we can expect it to continue in 2016. We’ve seen reach and frequency buying, a whole suite of Instagram advertising options, carousel ads, dynamic product ads, more ways to incorporate first- and third-party data, and more. These are the kinds of tools marketers can use to create ads that users actually want to click, à la that memorable Warby Parker ad.
Finally, if the goal is to deliver consistently helpful, high-quality, and integrated ad experiences – ones that don’t send users running for their ad blocking software – then we can safely conclude that Facebook is on the leading edge and there will be more exciting developments to come in the new year.