SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is trying to finish the job Apple started six years ago with its iAd platform: The social media giant wants to deliver immersive, full-screen mobile ads that let brands tell more detailed stories. On Thursday, Facebook released Canvas, a new ad format that marketers can use to string together video, photos, text and animation, to create experiences that take over users' smartphones and tablet screens. Canvas is essentially a mash-up of Facebook's many current ad types packaged into a single ad format. When users see Canvas ads in their News Feeds, they can expand them to full-screen mode and then swipe, tilt and tap on a broader mix of media.
"This space was designed, invented and inspired by our relationship with the creative community around the world," said Mark D'Arcy, chief creative officer at Facebook, at a press briefing.
Canvas enables next generation mobile ads
Facebook started work on Canvas in late 2014, and it's designed to meet marketers' demands for more "ownable" space (read: larger real estate) so they can create cutting-edge experiences on mobile devices, according to D'Arcy. The company plans to expand Canvas to Instagram during the second half of 2016, and executives say they may eventually bring Canvas to Facebook's Audience Network, which helps advertisers buy ad inventory in third-party mobile apps.
Canvas gives brands a new way to engage users on Facebook, according to Brian Blau, research director at Gartner. "All of a sudden, now you have this multimedia cornucopia of options to present to the user," Blau says. "Stringing that together is going to increase the amount of time that your customer spends with your brand."
Facebook already created thousands of Canvas ads using its self-service tools, so the format is immediately available to all of the 2.5 million businesses that currently buy ads on the platform.
Fast food chain Wendy's had early access to Canvas, and the company's Vice President of Advertising, Brandon Rhoten, joined Facebook executives on Thursday to discuss his team's experience with the new medium. "I've got seven national agencies. I have 21 local agencies. I've got hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising that I run in a year, and I get bored, Rhoten said. "I get bored, because I see the same executions over and over. We need to tell our story in a lot of different ways on a lot of different platforms."
To this end, Wendy's decided to deconstruct its classic cheeseburger menu item using a Canvas ad. The ad generated an average view time of 65 seconds, and 2.9 percent of users clicked on a link in the ad to find a nearby location, according to Rhoten.
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