Facebook announced AR features for ads on the site's News Feed, with uses such as letting mobile users virtually try on apparel. Image via Facebook.

Facebook Touts Mobile, Multimedia-Rich Ads

Facebook is talking Christmas in July. At a recent press event, the company said it will increase its use of augmented reality (AR) this year for holiday advertising, expanding the feature to the platform’s pivotal News Feed, according to coverage by Reuters and TechCrunch.

The social media giant also announced a streamlined video production feature for advertisers. It previewed improvements within its visually-rich Instagram app, allowing advertisers to tag shopping links in the app’s Stories feature.

Earlier this year at Facebook’s F8 developers conference, the company debuted AR advertisements within the company’s popular Messenger app, which boasts more than 1.3 billion users. Aimed at business customers using Messenger to communicate with customers and potential clients, Facebook’s technology allowed for users to interact with advertisers in an immersive AR environment, letting business customers with compatible devices to, say, virtually try on cosmetics or sunglasses or see how a life-sized car or piece of furniture might look in a customer’s garage or living room.

This month’s announcement sees the company moving into a more ambitious use of AR, reaching a larger share of the platform’s estimated 2.19 billion monthly users by employing AR-ready advertisements directly on the News Feed, the primary interface of the Facebook app where users see updates from people, pages, and business they interact with.

After major business reported that the AR-enabled Messenger ads increased customer engagement, Facebook is rolling out the improved News Feed ads later this summer with industry partners including Sephora, Bobbi Brown, Pottery Barn, Wayfair and others.

With an enticing “tap to try on” feature, Facebook’s vice president of product marketing for the company’s global marketing solutions Ty Ahmad-Taylor said that the new feature “bridges the gap” between traditional retail and the convenience of the digital experience. Ahmad-Taylor said, “people still really love that experience [of trying on items at retail], but they would like to try it at home.”

Additionally, Facebook will release another helpful tool for advertisers, the Video Creation Kit which provides a simple and easy to use video creation workflow to rapidly generate video content from still photos, text, overlays and other content. According to TechCrunch, weight loss company Noom reported that videos created with tests of Facebook’s Video Creation Kit performed “77 percent better” than static images alone.

Finally, the company announced updates to advertising in its popular Instagram app, popular among millennials and boasting a 1 billion-strong user base as of this year. Rolling out a feature quietly tested with a few established brands since 2016, Instagram will make in-app shopping easier by letting all advertisers tag links to their items in Stories, Instagram’s Snapchat-esque short-form video feature. The company’s 300 million users interact with Stories every day.

Until recent years, TV ads generated the bulk of advertising revenues, and while digital ads were catching up, desktop ads such as the much-maligned banner ads, pop-ups and video ads still dominated digital ad dollars. With the explosive growth of smartphones and mobile app usage however, not only have digital ads become the leading ad medium over television and print, but mobile advertising has outpaced expenditures and revenues on the traditional desktop web.

Furthermore, advertising has become the leading moneymaker for app developers, surpassing in-app content or features purchases⎯a trend Facebook appears positioned to exploit this holiday season.