Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / July 21st, 2008

Facebook's New Look: What Does It Mean For Advertisers?

I’ve been advertising on Facebook for a few months now, and overall have been really pleased (see my post about setting up the advertising account here).  So I was very curious when I heard they’d be launching a redesign of their site very soon.  I’m sure the redesign went through rounds of focus groups for usability, but how will it affect advertisers?

I got an email last night letting advertisers know about those changes, and I have to admit it raised some red flags.  I’m not saying things will turn sour, but I am concerned.  To give you some background, Facebook offers both PPC and impression-based advertising.  I went with PPC for a few reasons.  First, I know people aren’t coming to facebook to find a Web designer, so I knew the click-through rate would be low.  So I just wanted to pay for impressions that went somewhere.

Also, I see a real opportunity here.  Facebook lets you target down to the company that a person works for, so I’m able to do some image awareness advertising to large companies that already employ us.  They don’t need to click the ad, but I’m still getting our logo in front of their face and therefore to top of mind.  In fact, I’ve had over 3.65 million impressions since I started, but have paid less than $1000 to date.  Talk about best of both worlds…tons of quality impressions (I know only the target audience I set sees them) for a PPC price.

So back to the email…there was one paragraph in particular that made me worry:

“The most basic change that you’ll notice is that ads will now appear on the right side of Facebook pages instead of on the left. The new placement integrates the ads into the new site design in a meaningful way. As many as two ads may show at one time on any given page.”

Unless you’re viewing Facebook in Hebrew, you’re reading from left to right.  Naturally the eye starts on the left side of the page.  With the ads going to the far side, I think less people will see them before moving on to the next page.

The second concern here is with multiple ads.  I really liked how, unlike Google adwords, only one ad was shown per page.  It was less intrusive and more likely to get noticed.  I’m sure ad costs aren’t going down, but now you’re sharing space.  It’s like getting a roommate without a rent savings.  Oh, and you don’t get to pick your roommate.  Hello, competition. 

After looking at the new design, which is up at www.new.facebook.com, I saw one other thing that concerned me.  Take a look:

facebook's new design

Not only are the ads now on the right, but they’re also separated by a large line.  No other divider on the site is that thick.  While I’m not asking facebook to present ads as editorial content or anything deceitful like that, I don’t like how isolated the ads are.  You can see the old look here, where ads were divided the same as any other content block:

old facebook

Another thing I noticed while writing this post are the ad ratings below each ad.  I’m not sure how long they’ve been there, but they do exist on both versions on the site.  They let you say whether an ad was relevant to you and why.  I’m very curious to see if facebook shares that info with advertisers or just uses it as an internal tool to determine which ads to share to which users.  Here is the box that pops up after you click thumbs up or down:

facebook ad ratings

So I’m not saying our return on investment will go down with this change, but I will keep a close eye on things.  Who knows…maybe this will improve things.  I’m sure this new design went through rounds and rounds of focus groups and beta test to make it easier to use.  It just appears to me there was less focus on the advertiser.  We’ll see.  For a company like facebook that operated with virtually no income for years, I’d be surprised to see them bite the hand that feeds them just months after launching the PPC ad service.