Facebook Advertising 101: Ad Anatomy and Types of Ads

Facebook Ads allow you to harness the power of the largest social media network site to reach your prospects and customers. Getting the most out of these ads requires a basic understanding of the different ad types Facebook offers and the associated creative elements.

We will first start with the creative elements, since all of the ads are built off of these elements, and then move to the most popular ad types.

Anatomy of a Facebook Ad

Facebook Ads are highly customizable, enabling businesses of every shape and size to advertise. Customization is easy because there are five basic creative elements that are used in different combinations and iterations to make up every Facebook ad:

  • Image
  • This is the largest and most important part of the ad because it catches the eyes of your audience and, if inviting enough, leads viewers to look more closely at the advertisement. The image draws people in, and your copy (the next three elements) provides information about the offer.

    ** Note that on digital video ads, a video clip is used in place of a static image.

  • Post text
  • The post text is a 90-character piece of copy that appears on almost every ad. This text is directly above or below your image, so this text is the first copy your audience will see.

  • Headline
  • The headline gives you 25 characters to sum up your offer. A concise, attention-grabbing headline encourages people to take a second look at your ad.

  • Description
  • This 200-character piece of copy appears only on a couple of ad types. The longer length of this copy allows you to go into more depth regarding the offer. Punchy and inviting copy in your description will help maximize response to your ad.

  • Call-to-Action Button
  • This button appears on the bottom of a few ad types in order to instruct individuals on how they can follow up with the offer described in your ad. You have a number of different phrases that you can choose for the call-to-action button, including "Learn More," "Shop Now," "Sign Up," and "Contact Us."

Types of Facebook Ads

As noted, the creative elements can be employed in several different ad types. These ad types include:

Desktop News Feed

Desktop News Feed Ads -- like Mobile News Feed, Carousel Link and Digital Video ads -- appear within the main newsfeed on Facebook, so they look and feel like typical status updates and posts. Since these ads mirror content that is important to Facebook users, and they are particularly advantageous because they are extremely hard to miss and they have great engagement rates.

Desktop News Feed Ads make up the largest ad type, and they are featured specifically in the newsfeeds of laptop and desktop versions of Facebook. Their size means that you can combine all the different creative elements in the crafting of your desktop ads.

Sample Desktop News Feed Ad

Mobile News Feed

Mobile ads appear only on mobile devices and tablet computers. Because of the space restrictions of these devices, mobile ads feature a more limited set of creative elements to choose from, but are still highly effective.

Sample Mobile News Feed Ad

Carousel Ads

Facebook's carousel ads comprise a new category of newsfeeds ads that are being used increasingly by companies to advertise their products. Carousel ads are featured in the newsfeeds of both desktop and mobile device versions of Facebook, and they allow marketers to display up to five images in one ad. Thus, companies that have multiple product and service verticals, including retail and insurance businesses, are advised to consider carousel ads.

Update: Carousel Link Ads can additionally appear in the right rail of Facebook. For this placement, Facebook only selects two of the images provided and formats them exactly like a Desktop Right Rail ad. For more information on Desktop Right Rail ads please see below.

Sample Carousel Ad

Video Ads

These are short videos that appear in the newsfeed on both desktop and mobile versions of Facebook. They can be used to demonstrate how a product or service works, or they can simply be a way to quickly catch the eyes of your customers.

Update: On September 23, 2015 Facebook launched 360-degree video ads. The results, which can be viewed here, have been pretty awesome.

Sample Video Ad

Slideshow Ads

Announced in October 2015, Slideshow Ads are a subset of digital video ads. Instead of sinking time and resources to create a full digital video, marketers can upload three to seven still images and have Facebook stitch them together to form a video. These videos can be three to 15 seconds long and can include a fade-out transition between each image.

The resulting Slideshow Ad looks exactly like the Digital Video Ad example above.

Desktop Right Rail / Right Column Ads

Desktop right rail/right column ads are displayed on the right hand margin on almost every page on Facebook. Though these ads are smaller in size than newsfeed ads, they can be shown to individuals multiple times throughout the day to really build your impression count.

Sample Right Rail Ad

Lead Generation Ads

Acquire prospect information without them ever having to leave Facebook. Check out our full blog post here!

Audience Network Ads

Sample Audience Network Banner Ad

Audience network ads appear outside of Facebook on third party mobile applications. Essentially, developers use these ads to monetize their apps. Facebook makes money via audience network ads by placing the ad, collecting the revenue from the placement and splitting the revenue with the app developers.

The Audience Network program is still in its infancy, and there are currently plans to use Facebook as a vehicle to place audience network ads not only on mobile apps, but also on the websites of major publishers like Huffington Post. As this program expands, there are a host of potential benefits for both direct and digital marketers. To learn more about the Audience Network and its future, click here.

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