Facebook is experimenting with augmented reality advertising


Facebook announced that augmented reality (AR) ads are now available to all marketers through its ad manager according to Adweek. Advertisers can now create and incorporate AR effects into their campaigns through Facebook’s Spark AR engine and deploy the advertisements through the platform’s ad targeting system.


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Spark AR has been publicly available to consumers on both Facebook and Instagram since late 2018, although only a few select brands have been able to use the tech in their ads to this point. Facebook first tested the new format last year with a feature that enabled users to “try on” different products like sunglasses directly from News Feed. 

Facebook’s ultimate goal with its AR engine is likely to boost social commerce on Instagram. It’s unclear if this particular rollout will apply to Instagram as well, but, if not, we expect that it’s only a matter of time before Facebook introduces the tool to Instagram.

In fact, a similar feature was tested last October on Instagram, with early brand partners like Ray-Ban and Mac and Nars Cosmetics. In line with company’s broader social commerce push, the addition of AR advertisements adds another incentive for brands looking to Instagram to drive sales. That’s especially true given that augmented reality is on the uptake among consumers: According to eMarketer forecasts, 68.7 million people will use AR at least once a month in 2019, and that number could grow to 77.7 million by 2020.

This will also be the first time AR features are broadly deployed on a platform that has a significantly older user base and can be viewed as an experiment in older generations’ receptiveness. Snapchat and Instagram have been leading the way in AR for a few years now, but these platforms are primarily used by young people, with 62% and 67% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the US using the platforms respectively, according to the Pew Research Center.

That’s compared with just 25% of 50- to 64-year-olds or 9% of those 65 and older for Snapchat, for instance. Facebook, on the other hand, is popular across a range of age groups, with 68% of 50- to 64-year-olds and more than 50% of those 65 and older saying they use the site.

Further, early signals suggest young people are more receptive to immersive reality than older generations: In a survey conducted by Gfk and cited by eMarketer, 45% of 19- to 28-year-old respondents and 49% of 29 -to 38-year-old respondents said they’d be more likely to visit a retail store that offered an AR or VR experience, while just 31% of 39- to 53-year-olds said the same.

Facebook’s broad rollout of the ad feature could provide brands with a useful gauge on AR’s potential when targeting older consumers. And, at the very least, the rollout gives brands an opportunity to stand out on a platform that is critical for driving referrals: Facebook contributed more than 80% of the share of social referrals to ecommerce sites in the first quarter of 2019 compared with Instagram’s 10.7% and Pinterest’s 8.2%, according to Adobe Digital Insights and cited by eMarketer. 

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