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November 17, 2015

As marketing dollars continue to shift towards mobile, advertisers are clamoring for more choices of how to present their message.

Social networks, eager to keep delivering massive revenue growth, are listening and doing their best to meet demands.

They’ve been on a torrid pace lately, as seen in this recent launch timeline we compiled:

Now, we’re looking forward: What’s on the horizon for each of the major social networks and their mobile ad units?
To find out, we looked at mobile ad units which are currently in testing phase for each network. Some are further along than others, but all have at least been glimpsed in the wild though not fully open yet to all advertisers.


Prepare to hear the word “Canvas” a lot more in 2016. It’s the title Facebook is giving its immersive new ad unit.
Think of Canvas as a very similar experience as Facebook’s Instant Articles. A user is able to perform deeper actions, from purchasing products to viewing interactive content within the ad unit.

Canvas is a bold sign that Facebook doesn’t trust the mobile web experiences that many of their ads are sending users to. Slow loading times, pages filled with screen-crowding ads, and tracking difficulties give Facebook good reason to feel this way and attempt to build their own buttoned-up, mini mobile web units.

Canvas has huge implications for both brand and direct response advertisers. Brand advertisers will load Canvas with interactive slideshows and flashy videos while direct response advertisers will lean on the commerce elements that Canvas affords.

Another immersive style on the horizon is 360 Video Ads, Facebook’s preview of what advertising could look like in Oculus Rift and other virtual reality experiences. For now, the ad unit is still in the Facebook news feed but allows users to control the video experience on their own and pan around for an interactive view. Early advertisers were just announced and include big brands like AT&T, Nestle, Samsung, and Walt Disney. You can also already see this technology being implemented to businesses eCommerce shops with the likes of 360 views of products across websites by using systems such as this 3d visualization software or similar alternatives.


The next ad units which Instagram release will tell a lot about how the platform’s next years will look. Instagram has spent the past few months getting parity with newer Facebook units like Carousel and Video. Will Instagram continue to follow, or will it look to chart it’s own course?
Instagram’s only unique offering so far has been Marquee, a premium unit that guarantees quick, mass exposure and up to 3 impressions per user each day.Instagram currently has no new ad units in testing phase. This may be a sign they’re busy working on Instagram-specific targeting, which they’ve yet to release as distinct option from Facebook targeting.


Twitter seems poised to continue to chart its own path rather than copy Facebook – a wise move since they’ll never compete on scale.Twitter is currently testing Promoted Moments, an ad unit available in Twitter’s new Moments tab. The unit, with high minimum budgets, screams big brand and is a contender against traditional TV advertising and Snapchat Story campaigns.Buy Now is not new – it was released as a test in September 2014 – but it’s yet to be open to all advertisers or to any outside the U.S. As we’re 1+ year in, expect to see Buy Now be fully released in the coming quarter, or evolve into a difference commerce experience.

Finally, nothing is being tested currently, but it’s likely we’ll see something come to Periscope and Vine in the coming months – both small, but heavily engaged communities centered around video. We’ve also hinted at the possibility of a paid Polls product.

The New Contenders: Snapchat and Pinterest

Because other channels can’t meet the scale and reach of a Facebook, they need to lean heavily on innovative ad units which drive better performance. Given this, it’s no surprise then that we see varied, unique units from this group:
Snapchat is dipping its toes into direct response advertising with a new video call-to-action ad that allows for a “learn more” element. True to the nature of the platform, it’s not a click but a swipe that brings a user to another screen with more information. Up until now, Snapchat’s ad units were more in line with big brand, TV-style units so this latest move is one to keep an eye on.

Pinterest might have the most on the table of any network we’ve looked at. Their library of Rich Pins could all likely be stand-alone paid units at any point, including the much-requested Mobile App Install unit.

Another major product currently in limited release is Buyable Pins. Live now with limited brands and commerce partners since June, it’s crucial that this release goes well for Pinterest to meet it’s goal of not only being a destination for inspiration but also for commerce.

Preparing For The Next Generation of Ad Units

Knowing what’s next, what should an advertiser or agency do next?

  1. Ask for access – Focus on a few ad units above that you might be a good fit for. Get in touch with your contact at each network and let them know you’re interested in being part of the test, and more importantly, why you’d be a good fit for them. You’ll often get an answer of “we’re at capacity” or “minimum budgets are $XXX for this test” but it never hurts to ask, and you’ll likely get on a list for priority access down the road.
  2. Prep resources internally – It’s clear that video will play an increasingly important role in ad creative in the coming months. Are you prepared for this? Take this time now to line up the right resources so that you can start fast out of the gate when you have access to new units.
  3. Act now with existing units – As evidenced by our chart, there’s no shortage of units that have been fully released in the past few months. It’s likely you haven’t tested all of these or gained deep insights yet. Focus on finding success with these until you’re able to access the next wave of ad units.

Interested in taking your mobile advertising strategy to the next level? Learn more about Bamboo’s mobile advertising expertise and services >

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