By Steve Outing
Take a look at this ad from Facebook, which is in between two items in my account’s Newsfeed:
I’m not sure if this format is new, but until a couple weeks ago I never noticed any ads or “Sponsored” messages in my Newsfeed. There were only vertical banner ads in the left column — which are all but invisible and I’m sure suffered from dismal clickthrough rates. I know that I hardly ever look at the banners. If we did an eyetracking test on Facebook’s left-side banner, it would perform pathetically. (I managed an eyetracking project when I worked at the Poynter Institute a few years ago.)
But the new ad format set within users’ Newsfeeds is brilliant. It follows some of the advice that we gave in Poynter’s Eyetrack III study to make online ads most effective:
- Inset the ad within the flow of “editorial” content, so the eye has no choice but to go over it. (The left-side banner can be avoided; the eye isn’t forced to go there.)
- Use similar colors and design look and feel as surrounding editorial content.
Critics may argue that this approach by Facebook tries to trick users into viewing the ad, by doing the above. I don’t buy that. The “Sponsored” text cue is enough for me; it makes the point without going overboard to announce “Hey, this is an ad!”