Facebook Gives Marketers a Blank Canvas

Facebook on Thursday yanked the drapery off its Canvas, inviting marketers to splash it with their best promotions.

The new platform will provide brands with a new medium for storytelling, and it will return ad pages up to 10 times faster than mobile Web pages do, the company proclaimed.

It’s a big screen ad experience for the small screen, compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and it’s available now. Facebook has called on the creative community to help shape the design direction of Canvas, in an effort to maximize the ability of brands to tell compelling stories.

Brands can deliver images, video, text and actionable content in a way mobile Web pages thus far haven’t been able to, according to Facebook. Canvas allows users to zoom in on content, and flip between landscape and portrait views.

While some webmasters may be scratching their heads about the navigation claims, there doesn’t appear to be much argument over the speed at which canvas returns content to consumers.

Backed by some of the world’s most powerful server farms and built on made-for-mobile tech, Canvas churns out ads at the Facebook app’s speed. Because Canvas ads are native to Facebook, there’s no conversion time lost in loading a browser app.

Brands interested in creating their own Canvas need only visit the page’s publishing tools or Power Editor.

A Modern Art Form

Marshal McLuhan once called marketing the “greatest art form of the twentieth century.”

Facebook’s choice of the “Canvas” name for its new advertising platform may be no coincidence, suggested Mark Montini, CEO of Promio.

It’s sure to appeal to marketers, he told the E-Commerce Times. For one, Canvas is “a new way to deliver a message to consumers. Adoption of display ads has grown immensely in recent years, and that’s made it difficult to have ads stand out. “

Besides serving as a new avenue to reach consumers, it invites the most skilled and expressive marketing artists to create — and that could move units.

“Canvas ads represent an opportunity for forward-thinking marketers to separate themselves from competitors — at least for a little while — by telling their stories in a new and different format,” Montini said.

Framing the Conversation

Although marketers may go mad for Canvas, consumers might not be thrilled about this new way to hawk products to them, suggested Roger Entner, principal analyst for Recon Analytics.

“I haven’t met a consumer yet who has been clamoring for more ads,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

As far as ad delivery goes, “this just a more elegant way of doing it,” said Entner.

Many consumers are resigned to living with sales pitches, but the more tech-savvy bunch look for tools to block them.

Consumers probably will respond negatively to Canvas ads at first, Promio’s Montini speculated. They’ll be forced to change their behavior in order to skirt the new marketing content.

“As with all new tactics, though, it won’t take long for them adapt,” he predicted, “and then, shortly after they adapt, they’ll learn how to ignore — and Facebook will come up with another new format.”

Bigger Picture

If marketing truly is an art form, then there some impressive artists on Facebook’s payroll.

Still, the company is far behind Google in the ad game and on delivering returns for its efforts, according to Montini.

Facebook may have a lock on churning out “feel-good, vanity metrics,” but monetization is still a problem.

“It’s only a matter of time before marketers — especially those focused on local, small business marketing — begin to shift ad dollars away from Facebook en masse,” said Montini, “unless Facebook can close the ROI gap with Google. Canvas ads seem to be their latest attempt to do just that.”

Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.

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