Facebook To Launch Crowdsourced Ad Format Next Week

What do you do if creative agencies are constantly bugging you to create new ways to promote brands on your network? Hold a competition.

Facebook Comment adsFacebook knows that its future lies in creating new and compelling ways for brands to advertise on its platform. That’s why in the past year it’s launched innovative new formats, like Sponsored Stories and "Ads with Friends."

But next week Facebook will launch a new kind of unit that’s innovative not just for its format, but for how it was conceived. That’s because Facebook didn’t come up with the idea itself--it crowdsourced it.

The new unit is called the “Comment” ad. It will appear in the right-hand column, like other ads. But it will be formatted like a conversation (or, as Facebook calls them, “a story”). The brand will make a statement or pose a question, and below that will be a comment box where the user can enter a response (see top right).

If the user does enter a response, the conversation then appears in the user’s News Feed, where the brand starts to reap “earned” impressions among that user’s friends. And if some of the user’s friends comment themselves, those comments can be turned into Sponsored Stories (see bottom right).

In other words, it’s the ad that keeps on giving.

The idea for the ad was the result of a competition Facebook held last year among creative agencies it works with regularly. The agencies regularly bring Facebook ideas for new ways for brands to promote themselves on the social network, Grady Burnett, Vice President of Global Sales and Operations, tells Fast Company. “So we decided to tap into that community to see if they could come up with something that would work for at least a slice of our advertisers,” he says.

Ten agencies submitted about 100 ideas, which were whittled down to the best five and voted on by a panel. The winner was the “Comment” ad, submitted by Chicago agency Leo Burnett.

The new format launches June 28. Leo Burnett will have exclusive use of it for two months, and then Facebook will open it up to other premium advertisers.

The idea makes sense for Facebook, which doesn’t see itself as a conventional media site, where ads are one-way broadcast. Instead, Facebook sees its value as being able to create connections and relationships between consumers and brands. Conversations are one way to do that, and the “Comment” ad format is a way to jumpstart conversations.

Burnett, the Facebook VP, says the social network will soon run another such competition, even as its internal team continues to work on their own ideas. But he also says Facebook hasn’t decided yet whether to make this a regular thing. They’ll first have to see how well the new formats perform in the market.

E.B. Boyd is Fast Company’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter. Email.

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6 Comments

  • Mark L

    Unfortunately, FB's new News Feed layout (being tested on a small amount of users; I am one) allows only one ad to be displayed. As a FB advertiser, I find this change very troubling, as I have seen our ad effectiveness plummet.

  • ClickTell Consulting

    More viewers won’t necessarily equate to a more sustainable business. We have just done some interesting work on Facebook users’ power consumption and believe that this demonstrates a flaw in their business model. See “Facebook:The global power buster?” on the Clicktell Consulting blog. Sorry you need to google the title of the blog as I dont think fastcompany regulations allow me to show any URLs...

  • Gary Vaughn

    I enjoy the concept. I believe in starts to create a more "humanized" effect to businesses and lets the consumer not just be feed advertisements, but to interact with their favorite companies.

  • Suzie Lee

    I love the idea of social ads. It's what the advertising industry was missing. Our clients have been very pleased with the sponsored stories. Incentivizing dialogue is very important, it gives ads a human voice. We're also excited for http://www.virurl.com which is in private beta. I think the future of the industry will shift to turning advertisements to entertainment. looking forward to the future ... nice work Facebook.

  • Adrian Wainer

    Facebook will still be filthy murderous scum that allow the likes of Islamists to taunt Jewish people about stuffing them in to ovens, whilst if one is the like of an admirer of Senator  Barry Goldwater one can be permabanned at the drop of a hat. And on top of Facebook filth moderation practices, Facebook is hacked and it may be that every Facebook Fanpage is compromised certainly pages belonging to US politicians are, for example Senator John Cornyn, media organizations e.g. France 24 and State Dept pages e.g. the US Embassy in Kabul. It is a thundering disgrace that the media has not picked up on the issue that Facebook is hacked considering for the hackers to be doing what they are doing, they would need to be penetrating Facebook at a top application software level and loading their own programs on to Facebook.