A lot of marketers build their businesses by getting people to sign up for things like email newsletters. It's a way to get people's contact information so that the marketer can keep in contact with them and try to make them a customer. Now Facebook's going to make it easier for marketers to collect that contact information.
Facebook is starting to test a new mobile ad format called "lead ads" that marketers can use to ask people to sign up for email newsletters or a request a call for a price estimate. Facebook began testing these new ads in February and is running them with a "few dozen advertisers" around the world, said Facebook's head of product marketing for direct-response advertising Maz Sharafi.
These are the types of forms that marketers may already feature on their sites but molded into a Facebook mobile ad and with a twist: Facebook will automatically fill out the forms with information from people's Facebook profiles, such as their names and email addresses.
The profile information that advertisers can request from people includes contact and demographic information, such as their email addresses, phone numbers and ZIP codes, Mr. Sharafi said, as well as other information like country of residence, company name and job title. Advertisers will also be able to include up to three drop-down menus to solicit more information like what topics a person is interested in or how often they'd prefer to be contacted by the marketer.
Facebook's mobile lead ads test is the company's latest effort to cater to direct-response advertisers who care more about people clicking on their ad than simply seeing it and are spending more money online than brand advertisers. Last year, direct-response advertisers accounted for 59% of the $50.1 billion that marketers spend on digital ads in the U.S., according to eMarketer estimates.
Earlier this year Facebook started giving all of its advertisers the ability to measure how their Facebook ads drove sales. And earlier this month Facebook-owned Instagram announced plans to let brands include links in their ads, which are just the kind of ads direct-response advertisers like to buy.
The mobile lead ads could help Facebook get advertisers to buy its other ads because advertisers can keep the information collected from the ads and could use that contact information to target those people with ads through Facebook's Custom Audiences targeting option, which lets a brand upload a list of customers' email addresses or phone numbers to target ads to the corresponding Facebook accounts.
While Facebook is making it easier for marketers to collect people's contact information, marketers still have to give people a reason to hand over their information. Facebook won't send any information to a marketer until people click the submit button. If people are wary about how marketers may use their information, they'll be able to check out the marketers' privacy policies by clicking on links placed within the ad.
People will be able to change the contact information sent to a marketer. So if the email address attached to someone's Facebook account isn't the one they want marketers to have, they can swap it out for another one. Conceivably that would give Facebook more information to associate with a person's Facebook account, but Mr. Sharafi said Facebook will not be storing or connecting to someone's Facebook account any new-to-Facebook information submitted through these ads.
Mr. Sharafi wouldn't say if or when Facebook plans to roll out these mobile lead ads as an official ad product. But if and when it does, advertisers should expect to buy the ads according to the same cost structures available for Facebook's other ads, including paying per thousand impressions or per click.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Facebook is considering letting advertisers request information about people's country of residence, company name and job title and attributed that information to Mr. Sharafi. After the article published, a Facebook spokeswoman notified Ad Age that Mr. Sharafi misspoke and that Facebook is already including these information categories in tests.