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By Robert Hof, Contributor
Stung by claims in recent weeks that its advertising doesn’t work, Facebook is pouring on the public relations to insist that in fact, ads work just fine on the site. But while some of the claims of critics rest on shaky evidence, many questions about Facebook’s value as an advertising medium remain among the brands that constitute the bulk of all advertising online and off.
This coming week, Facebook will try to counter the negativity with new research to be revealed at the venerable Advertising Research Foundation‘s geeky but influential Audience Measurement 7.0 conference. When people speak here, marketers listen.
Facebook’s own paper, to be presented Monday, will make the case that not only do Facebook ads work, but they work on the same principles of marketing that have been honed for decades in other media. In other words: Just do what you’ve been doing, guys, and Facebook ads will deliver.
In the paper, entitled “What Traditional Principles Matter When Designing Social?”, Facebook describes how it enlisted marketing experts to rate a sample selection of Facebook ads on a scale of 1 to 5. In particular, they rated the so-called premium engagement ads (more or less like that one up on the right) that big brands run one at a time on people’s opening Facebook home page with the intention not of driving an immediate sale or signup but influencing brand preference and propensity to buy later. They came up with the ratings by judging six classic factors in ad creative:
* Focal point: Does the ad image focus attention?
* Brand link: Can you easily tell whom the advertiser is?
* Tone: How well does the tone of the ad fit the brand?
* Reward: Not just a coupon, but did you smile, learn something, or come away with a positive feeling?
* Noticeability: How noticeable is the ad?
* Point: Did the ad get its point across?
Then, Facebook partner Nielsen evaluated the success of those ads through its surveys, assessing to what extent the ads were remembered and changed people’s attitudes toward the brand. First, they found that focal point, brand link, and tone were the key factors in whether people remembered an ad. More important, if marketers improve their score on those three factors by just one point on the 5-point scale, they get an average 65% jump in brand recall. Huge, in other words.
Second, Nielsen found that reward mattered most in terms of getting people to consider buying a product. If marketers can boost the score of their ad from 3 to 4, they more than double the purchase consideration. Again, huge.
Of course, this is Facebook’s own research, so take it for what you think it’s worth. And even if you accept it, it may elicit a “duh.” But Sean Bruich, head of measurement platforms and standards at the social network and coauthor of the paper with Daniel Slotwiner, head of the company’s measurement solutions group, says that’s the point: The research shows that Facebook’s ads aren’t really as different as they may seem.
“Focusing on the fundamentals of marketing can really improve ad effectiveness on Facebook,” he says. “There are identifiable things that lead to marketing success.”
The second paper, from online measurement firm comScore, was already hinted at on June 7 by the company in a blog post, but the gist is this: Facebook posts and ads (yes, I’m told, its ads too despite reporting to the contrary) do provide a significant lift to intent to buy a product. The full details will be presented in a paper next Tuesday called The Power of Like 2: How Social Marketing Works.
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