Marketers Spending Big on 'Social Ads' That Drive Traffic to Facebook

Mars, Kraft, P&G and Others Are Using Online Ads Off Facebook to Drive Traffic to Facebook

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Many packaged-goods marketers have built out elaborate fan pages on Facebook, but they're focusing their media spend on internet ads that aren't on Facebook, according to new research from comScore.

A comScore analysis of online ad impressions from July shows CPGs have become the heaviest users of "socially enabled" ads that appear on sites outside Facebook but include "visit us on Facebook" or other "Click to Facebook" appeals to get users to brand pages.

Consumer-goods companies collectively accounted for nearly half of the socially-enabled ad impressions in July, even though they accounted for only 4.5% of all internet display ad impressions. They were 10 times more likely than advertisers generally to use socially-enabled online ads.

Within the consumer-goods manufacturer and retailer group, just six CPG marketers, including Mars, Kraft, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola Co., Unilever and P&G accounted for most of the industry's socially enabled display ads.

"Social destinations are really becoming a focal point in terms of where CPG ads click through to," said Mike Zeman, VP-marketing solutions at comScore. "In many ways the fan page is replacing the brand website as the primary destination for outbound marketing online."

The heaviest users of socially enabled ads, such as Mars and Kraft, made more efforts to get people to join their Facebook pages on other sites than they did on Facebook.

For Mars, the biggest user of socially enabled ads, that strategy seems to be paying off in the form of big brand fan counts. Mars has nine of the 70 largest brand fan pages, according to DBM/Scan's Facebook fan tracker, with more than 45 million fans collectively.

Kraft, which also invested heavily in socially enabled ads, has the third largest Facebook brand page, according to DBM/Scan, with more than 23 million fans for Oreo as of Oct. 4. But Coca-Cola Co., which has the biggest Facebook brand fan page with 34.5 million, was a relatively lighter user of socially enabled ad impressions, using only about a sixth as many as Mars. And Starbucks, the No. 2 fan brand page, used no socially enabled ads at all in July, and a well-below-norm 19% of its online ad impressions on social networks.

Another reason to drive traffic to Facebook, is that brands are getting more exposure among friends of fans than the fans themselves. Messaging in socially enabled online ads tends heavily toward promotional or philanthropic activities, Mr. Zeman said, citing a recent Bud Light Port Paradise promotion and P&G ads focused on getting people to join its "Dawn Saves Wildlife" program for cleaning wildlife affected by oil spills.

Display Ad Impressions (000)% Composition Socially Enabled Impressions
Total Internet393,814,508.7%
Consumer Goods17,664,6847.2%
Mars Incorporated - Consumer Goods955,72731.0%
Kraft Foods Inc. - Consumer Goods511,19638.8%
Anheuser-Busch InBev - Consumer Goods282,70045.4%
Procter & Gamble Co. - Consumer Goods1,919,1604.1%
Unilever - Consumer Goods824,6279.0%
Agro-Farma, Inc.115,75656.8%
The Coca-Cola Company - Consumer Goods473,31712.1%
Energizer Holdings, Inc. - Consumer Goods186,83723.1%
Dr Pepper Snapple Group - Consumer Goods162,83726.4%

Their heavy focus on fan recruitment gives the CPGs a bigger stake than most advertisers in how Facebook's recent F8 format changes affect the visibility of updates from brands, including a new "top stories" algorithm, tabs that make it easy for users to ask to see more or fewer messages from a brand or any other Facebook user, and the ticker, which doesn't include brands' updates but does show when friends are using a brand's apps. Mr. Zeman said it's still unclear how those changes will affect visibility of messages from brand pages on Facebook.

Viewership of updates is by far the main way brand pages reach fans. An analysis of 1,000 brand fan pages by PageLever covering June through August found a mean average of 82% of fans viewed at least one update, with the median fan page getting viewership of at least one update by 98% of fans.

But pages on average got only 29% of fans to visit the page at least once, and even that number was affected by a relative few highly successful brand pages. The median fan page only got 7.5% of fans to visit over the three-month period.

Despite their focus on internet ads to drive fan counts, consumer-goods companies are actually below the overall advertiser average in use of ads on social networks. Overall, ComScore found nearly a third or 32.5% of all online display ad impressions were on social networks in July. But only 28.7% of consumer goods online ad impressions were on social networks.

After long being seen as laggards in digital media, CPGs are fairly close to the average of marketers overall in the share of digital impressions they place in social media, said Andrew Lipsman, VP of industry analysis at comScore. And the CPGs are leading all other advertisers in using socially enabled online ads outside social media to drive their fan counts.

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