Facebook has hit user saturation in its core developed world markets. A strong way to boost revenue is for Facebook to make ads work better in emerging markets with older technology. But video, the hottest ad format, takes too much data for people with low-bandwidth connections to watch.
Facebook’s newest ad format, “Slideshow” could address this conundrum. Slideshow is an ad format that takes three to seven photos and auto-plays them as a slideshow with transitions so it looks like a normal video but can quickly load on any connection or device. The videos can be set to slide quicker or slower, lasting five to fifteen seconds, though they don’t include sound. Compared to a video of the same length, Facebook says Slideshow file sizes can be up to 5X smaller, which means they will start playing much sooner.
For big brands, like beta testers Coca-Cola and Netflix, Slideshow offers a way to reach everyone in the world regardless of how they connect to Facebook with a single style of creative. They don’t have to worry about whether it won’t load fast for slow connections or look boring on fast connections. They can also easily screenshot high-def videos to make Slideshows.
And for small businesses, the unit offers a vivid ad format that’s much cheaper to create than a video. A Slideshow ad buyer just needs a few photos, and Facebook will automatically create visual transitions between them to make something dynamic and eye-catching. Merchants can easily shoot the photos themselves or even use stock images from Facebook’s Shutterstock library, whereas producing and editing a whole video would cost too much.
The ad unit is now available through all of Facebook’s global ad buying interfaces, and it eventually hopes to make it available on Instagram as well.
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Coca-Cola is ran one of the first Slideshow ads in Kenya and Nigeria. It started with a high-quality video it had already made, took screenshots and added text to replace the sound, and ran it as a Slideshow. The ad reached 2 million people, which was twice Coca-Cola’s goal, and ad awareness rose 10 percent.
Facebook also provided updates on several of its other efforts around advertising to the developing world — an area of contention since Facebook has been criticized for using its theoretically-philanthropic Internet.org Internet access initiative to just recruit new users and ad viewers.
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Despite slower connections, Facebook says users in emerging markets actually view ads more favorably than in some developed nations. For example Kenya and Nigeria greatly enjoy the ads, and even screenshot and share them with friends and family.
Just because you have a small screen or slow connection, Facebook wants brands to be able to reach you with great ads. Connecting brands with these users is the goal of Facebook’s Creative Accelerator, where by “Partnering with some of the world’s top brands and agencies, we proved that beautiful creative drives real results in emerging and high-growth countries.”
Facebook today highlighted its work with 7 brands through 6 agencies in 5 countries. The partners include Coke and Virgin Mobile in countries including Kenya, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, and India. The program originally launched in February. [Correction: The program did not launch today, but we’re getting new details.]
For example, Coke used Facebook ad targeting to create campaigns just for Kenya, and used “expat targeting” to reach Kenyans abroad. Here are some of the results.
The new developing world-focused ad initiatives increase criticism about Facebook building Internet.org just to score new users, rather than as a philanthropic effort. There’s no doubt they’ll unlock tons of international ad spend.
But at the same time, they could boost business for small merchants all over the world. Without the resources to shoot expensive video ads or contract agencies to target their promotions, business owners in Facebook’s emerging markets can still produce high-quality campaigns. That in turn helps them grow their business and improve their financial situation thanks the knowledge economy.
Zuckerberg has trumpeted how connection improves people’s lives. Now, Facebook could make good on that mission, not just by bringing people the Internet, but through ways to do business there no matter where they are in the world.