Facebook may have sold $5 billion in advertising last year, but that doesn’t mean the social network had its ad strategy firmly under control: the company has announced a sweeping overhaul that will cut its number of ad units in half and put less pressure on advertisers to give their ads social features.
Advertisers have been complaining for the past year – the $5 billion one — about Facebook’s unwieldy collection of advertising products, Facebook product manager Fidji Simo said in a blog post. As a result, Facebook will pull many ad options it had previously touted, like allowing owners of Facebook pages to embed native coupons, or “Offers” in Facebook parlance. The number of ad units will fall from 27 to less than half of that.
Facebook had also previously required advertisers to choose between inserting ads in users’ news feeds strictly by paying Facebook or by paying Facebook and generating social context, such as a “Like” from a friend. If advertisers opted for the social option, their ad would show up as a “Sponsored Story,” so that when friends “Liked” and commented on the ad, those “Likes” and comments would stick around for a long time in other people’s News Feeds.
Now, Facebook will bundle both options together, so that every ad is automatically retrofitted with a social component. Each ad, in other words, will be both a regular ad and a “Sponsored Story.”
“We know social enhances ad resonance; people are influenced by this type of word-of-mouth marketing,” Simo wrote. As Peter Kafka at All Things D notes, this new approach de-emphasizes the uniquely social aspect of Facebook marketing by treating social as an automatic enhancement to any ad.
Of course, Facebook’s advertising has been performing well enough in raw dollar terms that the company may not have to worry about encouraging advertisers to design their ads especially for social sharing. Facebook is so big at this point that many advertisers will do that on their own.
This post has been modified from the original, which misstated the number of ad units Facebook offered. June 7 1:15pm ET