Facebook Just Bolstered Its Retail-Focused Dynamic Ads With Video and Merchandising Overlays

Social platform is taking early aim at holiday marketers

Come fall, Facebook wants to capture the attention of on-the-go consumers with retail video ads. Facebook
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Holiday retailers typically buy their media in August, yet Facebook held a press junket at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York this morning—a week before the Fourth of July—to get the word out about a handful of new, merchant-focused advertising features. Anything to get a yuletide head start on rival Google while angling for bigger ad budgets.

Chiefly, the social media platform debuted video for Dynamic Ads, which had previously only facilitated static images. Marketers can upload a catalog’s worth of product videos on the Facebook Ads API to get their campaigns rolling.

“Video is not just about storytelling anymore,” said Martin Barthel, global head of retail and ecommerce at Facebook. “It can drive branding and sales.”

Graham Mudd, product marketing director at Facebook, added, “Video works really well for direct-response advertising.”

Also, overlays can now be used on static Dynamic Ads, giving more options for copy, such as an item’s price or a discount. Marketers can test different shapes—circles, triangles, rectangles, squares—and colors on the ads, which could inspire a wave of multivariate testing most commonly associated with email marketers. (For example, they may test to see if blue triangles in ads produce more sales than red rectangles.)

All in all, Facebook wants to match the return-on-investment needs for its retail advertisers that are seeing stores close in 2017 like never before. There’s almost a meltdown quality to the offline merchant space this year, but the Facebook execs said that’s an opportunity for omnichannel-focused players—who think of mobile, video and brick-and-mortar holistically—to beat the competition. According to the Facebook IQ division, 30 percent of the platform’s mobile shoppers prefer to discover products through videos.

“[Smartphones] will, more than ever before, become everyone’s mobile shopper,” Barthel said.

Before January, Dynamic Ads targeting centered on remarketing, letting brands place Facebook ads in front of people who visited their websites. Since then, a select number of Dynamic Ads marketers have tested them to prospect for customers in a truer sense, allowing advertisers to target people who have shown specific product interest across the web and Facebook. The feature has been tested by hundreds of retailers in recent months and now will be used by thousands more in the next few weeks.

“People have always searched for products, and now the products will search for people,” said Barthel, after his company’s breakfast event.

Household targeting

The social platform also unveiled Tuesday a targeting tool that lets brands place ads in front of entire households or specific people within them. In theory, this will let marketers zero in on potential gift buyers who thinking about purchasing something for a particular loved one.

“What we want to do, basically, is leverage the power of our network to enable that kind of influencing or to support that kind of influencing across the family,” Mudd said.

Read more about the household targeting feature here.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.