Facebook’s Right-Rail Ads Making a Comeback

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By Tim Bosch The original Facebook ad placement goes by many names: right-hand column, right sidebar, and right rail. Whatever you choose to call this placement, the right column has been the slowest area on Facebook to evolve. They have had the same 100 X 72 specs for years. The other ad placement options, the mobile and desktop News Feeds, have become the clear favorite when it comes to driving meaningful user-action on Facebook. However, with organic reach dropping and advertisers beefing up ad spends in the News Feed, Facebook has become an extremely competitive marketplace. Starting today, Facebook will begin rolling out a new design for ads in the right column.

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This updated look will make right-hand column ads more visually consistent with the ads that appear in News Feed. These ads will use the same proportions as desktop News Feed ads, they will be larger in size, and there will be fewer of them. For advertisers, this offers a simpler way to create ads with an enhanced creative canvas on the right column of Facebook.

Once Facebook makes this ad inventory available, you can expect a healthy increase in right column CPMs. These CPMs will increase over time as more advertisers adopt the new, larger ad format and stop using the smaller ads. The bottom line for the new right column ads is that gross impressions will decrease, but the value of those impressions will increase.

Not all impressions are equal. Facebook’s current CPM averages by placement reflect this notion. News Feed CPMs are $5-$6 while right column CPMs are usually under $0.50.  As the bigger ad units lower Facebook’s overall ad inventory, you will see your CPM rise on the right column. This is not necessarily bad news. Bigger, more visually appealing ad units should yield a higher CTR, which should make up for the higher-priced real estate.

Another thing to note is with the image being around twice as large as before on the right column, the 20% text rule will be in effect. This means that Facebook will no longer accept any advertising that does not adhere to the 20% text rule. 

With less ads being displayed, Facebook will likely figure out how to get more ad inventory on mobile devices (their fastest growing ad placement). Opening up right-rail ad inventory to tablets could be a solution. Facebook has already begun testing this on their new iPad app. This should help add some much needed inventory on mobile targeted ads. With the success of Facebook's app download ads, Facebook will need to build more space  for these ads by opening up the right column to mobile advertisers.

Overall, this is an amazing change. Facebook users have become immune to the right column over the years. Although gross impressions will drop in the right column, the creative layout should inspire users to pay more attention this legacy placement, which will give creative advertisers a real shot at success there.

What do you think about Facebook's update to the right column ads new ad placement? Let me know in the comments!

Tim