There are currently 13 different types of sponsored stories
(including one that delivers context about friends who have played
with a game.) By the end of the third quarter or the beginning of
the fourth, Facebook intends to direct advertisers to buy one ad
format that will include the richest social context available. (And
in the event that no social context is available -- meaning a
user's friends haven't engaged with the brand -- a more
stripped-down news-feed ad with just a picture and text would
appear, for example.)
"Sponsored stories as an idea doesn't go away. Sponsored stories
as a product goes away," said Brian Boland, Facebook's product
Facebook is also intending to redesign the ads interface to
focus on "objectives" -- such as mobile app installs, online sales
and foot traffic -- rather than a menu of ad product types that are
potentially confusing for marketers.
"We're going to solidify on a smaller number of formats that we
think are better," said Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's engineering
director. He also noted that he expects the changes to help
marketers optimize their ad buys and subsequently make them drive
better results at a lower price. "We're going to help them make
better decisions up front by reducing the number of decisions they
have to make."
While cutting the clutter of redundant ad units may help
advertisers zero in on what's truly useful for their business,
retiring "sponsored stories" as a brand also marks Facebook taking
another small step away from its past reliance on social ads
to explain its value to marketers. In its new vision presented
today, social context is one ingredient in the Facebook ads
cocktail, but it's no longer a standalone ad product.
Facebook's plan is reminiscent of Google's move in February to
streamline AdWords; in Google's case, the simplication was intended
to urge advertisers to spread their bids to mobile.
Other ad units that will soon rest in peace -- as soon as July
-- are "questions" and "online offers." Instead of buying an ad
unit with convoluted social context showing when a user's friend
had answered a question posed by a brand, marketers will instead be
directed to pose the question directly in a news-feed post, for
example. And while "offers" for online sales are being phased out,
they'll remain in play for in-store deals.
Tim Peterson contributing.