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What to Know About Facebook's 2017 Ad Updates

Facebook continues to see explosive growth in its advertising business, as the Merkle Digital Marketing Report showed 71% Y/Y Facebook ad spend increase and eMarketer projected that the platform will account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. display ad revenue in 2017. But with rising competition from platforms like Snapchat, the rollout of new tactics to advertisers is crucial to continued growth.

Let’s take a look at some of the new advertising options available in Facebook so far in 2017.

Expanding the Reach of Dynamic Product Ads

In January, Facebook launched a beta program giving advertisers the ability to target Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs) to broader audiences than just the users who have viewed the products in a brand’s catalog. Advertisers now have the option to use Facebook targeting options such as interests and demographics to seek out potential new customers based on intent demonstrated on Facebook and around the web.

A retailer selling shoes, for example, would be able to serve DPAs to users who have looked at Facebook pages or other websites related to shoes. Those ads would display products from the retailer’s product feed to match the user’s demonstrated intent. Then, once that user visits the retailer’s site or app, they would become eligible for retargeting based on the products they browsed on the site.

This beta also allows brands to use CRM data to both re-engage existing customers not included in retargeting audiences and build prospecting models that will expand reach on Facebook in a smart, targeted way.

A Merkle retail client using DPAs to retarget product viewers has used this beta to additionally re-engage a purchaser list and target a lookalike model with great success over the last several months. The purchaser list converts at a 46 percent higher rate than product retargeting audiences, while the lookalike ad groups have seen outstanding engagement, with a click-through rate 36 percent higher than retargeting audiences and 92 percent higher than the average CTR across Facebook and Instagram, according to eMarketer.

The ability to target new users with dynamic ads also eases the burden on creative teams, with a brand’s product catalog serving as the creative engine. Rather than needing to develop unique ads for each product in a catalog, the relative simplicity of dynamic ads makes the process of acquiring new customers a more turn-key solution.

The beta is currently closed to new advertisers, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will re-surface later this year.

New Collection Ad Format

In the meantime, advertisers who want to promote products from a catalog have a new option available to them: the Collection ad format. The new format is not dynamic, but it pairs a “hero” image or video with related products (chosen by the advertiser) to help drive product discovery on mobile.

Four products from a product set will display below the main creative, but when a user clicks on the ad, they will be able to browse the extended product set without leaving Facebook—from there, they can click through to your site or app and purchase.

Even once the broader audience program is released to more advertisers, Collection ads should be a strong component of advertisers’ social plans; they bring together the best parts of both video ads (engaging creative that tells a story) and DPAs (keeping the focus on the products). But in the meantime, they offer the added benefit of being one of the best ways for brands to promote their products to new users.

Ad Breaks Coming to Facebook videos

At the end of February, Facebook announced the expansion of ad breaks to its on-demand and live video offerings. After long banning pre-roll ads and restricting video ads to standalone units, these ad breaks represent a clear attempt to compete with video advertising rivals Snapchat and YouTube.

Pages and profiles in the U.S. that have at least 2,000 followers and have reached at least 300 concurrent viewers in a recent Live video can now insert ad breaks while broadcasting to Facebook Live. Facebook is betting that giving live broadcasters the opportunity to earn ad revenue from their viewers will serve as an incentive for creators to choose Facebook Live over YouTube’s live streaming offering, which requires a channel to have received 10,000 views before being able to monetize.

Facebook is also testing ad breaks during on-demand videos from a small set of partners. Those partners will be able to insert ad breaks into new videos that they upload, or into existing videos in their Facebook libraries. Participating video producers will receive a 55 percent share of ad revenue, with the other 45 percent going to Facebook.

The feature is expected to draw more content creators to Facebook, but there are also concerns about how ad breaks might change the nature of video content. Currently, creators need to catch the eye of a viewer scrolling through the News Feed. But with ad breaks in the mix, some have wondered whether it might be more advantageous to use the first 20 seconds of a video to build to a peak that comes after an ad break.

At the moment, there is seemingly little rhyme or reason to which advertisers appear in the middle of which videos, but Facebook may introduce more robust targeting options when these ad breaks transition from testing to official product status.

More Ad Options in Instant Articles

Another change Facebook rolled out in March was the ability for publishers to add more ads to Instant Articles, a linchpin of the Facebook Journalism Project that allows users to read articles from their favorite publishers without leaving Facebook. Advertisers can either buy Instant Articles inventory directly from publishers, or programmatically through Facebook’s Audience Network.

When Instant Articles launched late in 2015, publishers expressed frustration at an ad policy that they felt restricted their ability to generate revenue: one ad per 500 words of content. That policy was quickly revised to allow an ad every 350 words. As of March, publishers will now be able to place an ad every 250 words in Instant Articles – and that additional opportunity should make all parties happier.


The new offerings Facebook has rolled out so far in 2017 should benefit publishers and advertisers alike. Of course, necessity is the mother of invention. With competitors nipping at its heels—especially in the video space—Facebook needs to keep bringing new advertising products to market (and improving their current offerings) if they want to keep up their trend of huge growth into 2018 and beyond, so keep an eye peeled for what comes next.