When it comes to introducing new technologies and innovations in social media, Facebook always seems to be ahead of the curve. Its latest creation is just as exciting as you’d expect: introducing the Facebook immersive Canvas ad product.

What Is It?

In Facebook’s words: “The Canvas is an immersive and expressive experience on Facebook for businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products.”

The translation: Create a customized, miniature, mobile version of your website that includes video, imagery, and other content of your choice that users can interact with.

What Does this Mean for Digital Marketers?

Facebook is offering Canvas as a new ad unit for brands, which will be able to showcase their products and highlight their newest offerings in a novel and exciting format. It’s an interactive full-screen experience that enables advertisers to show off their best angles and effortlessly command a user’s full attention. This means opportunities for better engagement, better recall, and literally a bigger canvas for you to tell your story on.

What Sets This Apart from Facebook’s Other Offerings?

Unlike any other ad unit currently available on Facebook, the one from Canvas allows an extensive catalog of media to append into one landing page. Advertisers can upload any combination of video, photos and calls-to-action to promote products, stories and more. Facebook ad creative has never been more dynamic and customizable.

Has the Canvas Ad Unit Been Released to the Public Yet?

The Canvas ad unit is still in its beta program and Facebook is testing how it will perform in the public with select brands. At the moment, about five percent of global advertisers are involved with testing, with plans for a complete rollout by February 28.


Mega Success: AdParlor and Carnival Cruise Lines Take Immersive Canvas for a Test Drive

With the help of AdParlor, PHD Worldwide, and Arnold Worldwide, Carnival Cruise Lines launched its first series of immersive Canvas ads early in December 2015. The initial results have been absolutely spectacular: according to Facebook, this was among the best performing ad units from the beta program. It helped give Carnival Cruise Lines Facebook Fans a brand new, multi-media cruising experience and led to significant engagements on the Canvas and online. The smashing success of Carnival’s campaign has turned it into Facebook’s Canvas poster child, having been featured here, here and here (And let’s not forget that it’s the main feature on the Facebook landing page itself).

So how did we do it?

The Objective:

Carnival Cruise Lines wanted to “show, not tell” users their five-day Caribbean cruise itinerary by showing off the perks in an entertaining, interactive format. The primary goal was to get users people to click to view and interact with the Canvas, and additionally to click through to the company’s main website.

Facebook Canvas Editor

The Approach:

Step One: Building the Canvas

Stephanie Parker, associate director of social and content systems at Arnold Worldwide, said her agency elected to use the Canvas format because “It becomes a completely immersive experience on someone’s phone. That really allowed us to digitally build out a cruise itinerary.”

Arnold Worldwide and PHD Worldwide worked together to create the Canvas within Facebook’s Canvas editor platform. Here, various layers and components featuring call-to-action buttons, carousels, graphics, text blocks and videos were created for a multi-dimensional, immersive experience. The Canvas was then published and handed over to AdParlor for promotion.

Step Two: Creating Immersive Canvas Ads

The AdParlor team took over by creating the Canvas ad unit from the published Canvas. AdParlor focused its targeting on Carnival’s key demographics on mobile devices when promoting the ad unit. Within the targets, AdParlor layered them against men and women ages 25-55 who live in the United States.

The customized Canvas ad unit itself sported an enticing image with a call-to-action “Tap to scroll through a 5-day adventure”, which seamlessly integrated with the contents of the Canvas itself for a unified and intuitive user experience.

Step Three: Continuous Optimization and Results Analysis

The AdParlor team continually optimized spends toward the best performing audiences, with “best” defined as users who were most likely to click to view and interact with the ad unit.

The Results:

With that goal in mind, the team saw some amazing results:

  • Average Canvas view time: 135.56 – 173.95 seconds
  • Average Canvas view percentage: 66.4% – 71.9%
  • 30% lift in view-to-completion rates compared to traditional video ads (15-30 seconds)
  • ~10x longer average user engagement with ad

What does this all means? We saw an incredible lift in engagement, with half of users viewing 100 percent of the canvas ad unit compared to the 20 percent of those who viewed a video ad (15 – 30 seconds) to completion in previous campaigns. Not only were users more likely to engage with the ad to completion, they were engaged for 10x longer, on average, each time.

It’s also worth noting that the actual “run time” of the ad was 120 seconds, which is shorter than the average Canvas view time. This suggests that users were continuing to engage and interact even when the ad was completed. Furthermore, metrics for the secondary goal of website clicks were comparable to those in existing campaigns—a win, win overall.

Excited Yet?

If you haven’t already, there are several ways you can incorporate Canvas ads into your marketing strategy.

  • Clothing retailer: Create a catalog to show off your new clothing or product line with new looks and trends for the season. Present a highlight video of your favorite outfit, then use the Carousel feature to break it down item-by-item. Or you could even showcase alternative ways to wear them.
  • Food and Beverage: Show off new recipes for your newest products or customer fan favorites. Create a quick video tutorial and detail each in a Carousel or show off related meal ideas.
  • The Super Bowl: Show off your Super Bowl integration with an immersive Canvas ad unit featuring facts and figures around the Super Bowl and your brand. Tie this into your YouTube strategy to win Super Bowl 50 via multiple-channels and social platforms.

…you get the picture.

However you look at it, the Canvas packs a powerful punch in the crowded marketing landscape with its relative simplicity in set up, huge customizability, and media-centric nature. It certainly is the next big innovation on Facebook—until the next one, of course.