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Friday, June 7, 2013

A Plan to Cull Ad Formats at Facebook

Ad Formats at Facebook to Be Fewer

MENLO PARK, Calif. â€" When it comes to advertising, Facebook has decided it needs a new friend: simplicity.

A prospective advertiser is confronted with 27 types of ads from which to choose, like online coupons and a bewildering assortment of sponsored posts that can be sent to the news feeds of Facebook users.

On Thursday, the social network announced that it was going to simplify the process of buying ads significantly, starting with the first question posed to a buyer.

Instead of presenting a range of ad choices, Facebook will instead ask what the goal of the ad is â€" building a brand image, for instance, or persuading customers to come into a store. Then it will suggest ad formats that it believes will be effective.

“You are going to pick an objective,” said Fidji Simo, Facebook’s product manager for ads, at a news conference at the company’s headquarters. “Based on that, we will show you a range of formats.”

As part of the overhaul, Facebook plans to cut more than half the ad formats, eliminating offerings like ads that pose a question to users. And it will condense the various types of sponsored stories, ads that resemble a friend’s post that appear in a user’s main feed, into a single type of ad.

“It should be simpler,” Ms. Simo said.

Users could benefit, too, Facebook said, by seeing more uniformity in the types of ads in their feeds.

Although Facebook executives declined to discuss the expected financial impact from the changes, the goal was clearly to make it easier for advertisers, especially smaller and medium-size businesses that lack advertising agencies or other expert advisers, to buy ads that deliver results. The changes are scheduled to be introduced in the third and fourth quarters.

Debra Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, a research firm, praised Facebook for trying to better align its products with the goals of advertisers. For a long time, she said, Facebook was promoting the idea that the social context of an ad â€" whether a user’s friend had praised a product, for example â€" was important to its value. But many advertisers found the idea, and the ad formats that accompanied it, to be difficult to navigate.

For the year, eMarketer expects Facebook to increase its ad revenue by 31 percent to $5.61 billion globally, compared with $4.28 billion in 2012. Facebook’s share of the United States online ad market is also growing, according to the research firm, which expects the social network to take in 6.5 percent of online ad dollars this year, up from 5.9 percent in 2012.

Brian Boland, Facebook’s director for product marketing, said the company was also trying to help advertisers, including smaller ones, better measure the effectiveness of their ad purchases.

Marshaling data on users to enable advertisers to customize ads better has become a major battleground for Facebook and its competitors as they vie for market share.

Twitter, another leading social network, announced on Thursday a partnership with WPP, one of the world’s biggest advertising companies, to share data and help WPP and its clients develop better marketing campaigns.

“As Twitter has grown, marketers are leveraging the platform for brand insights, relevant real-time messaging and customer research,” Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 7, 2013, on page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: Ad Formats At Facebook To Be Fewer.