Facebook’s new ad-building toy Canvas has been causing a bit of a stir in adland. And following on from our previous story on House of Travel’s experience with the platform, Westpac has quickly followed in tow, launching its first campaign through Canvas on Monday with DDB.
Canvas is a drag and drop ad interface built for mobile. It is essentially a microsite that uses a combination of “videos, still images and call-to-action buttons”, according to Facebook.
Users can swipe through images, tilt their devices to view panoramic images and zoom in to view them in great detail. It also loads 10 times faster than standard mobile web and allows business owners to develop immersive campaigns specifically for mobile devices, which until now would have required a significant production period and a decent investment from clients (some estimates suggest digital agencies would’ve charged in the vicinity of around $20,000 for microsite of this calibre).
So, it’s no wonder Westpac and DDB jumped aboard to help promote its new brand video for its ‘It’s time’ campaign, featuring Richie McCaw.
Westpac's initial campaign via DDB features McCaw running backwards through a beautiful forest setting in Queenstown, almost as if he is being forced to run backwards by an invisible, immovable force. A voiceover says that if you don’t use time in your favour, you will only go backwards. McCaw then suddenly starts powerfully running forwards. The ad ends with the tagline ‘It’s time’.
The campaign was about encouraging Kiwis to stop using time as an excuse and get on with what’s important, a Westpac release said.
Using Canvas, Westpac has released behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the shoot for fans to get a look into McCaw’s world, a release on Rednews says.
This is accompanied with other photos and imagery giving punters an interactive experience “on the forefront of social media technology”, the release says.
The business is always exploring innovative ways to connect with its customers and Facebook’s new Canvas feature has been a perfect fit, says Westpac general manager marketing product and transformation Andy Kerr.
“With social media now playing such a big part in our customer’s lives, we believe it’s important to be able to offer them new ways to consume content. Canvas pushes boundaries and delivers a truly unique experience …"
DDB digital creative director Haydn Kerr says Canvas is one of the most exciting developments in social media for 2016.
“It allows brands to create immersive experiences within Facebook, which is great for our audience as they don’t need to leave their newsfeed. And as Westpac is such an early adopter, we’re expecting high engagement levels.”
Kerr says he believes it will be a popular feature because one thing every fan wants is access.
“So we’ve used canvas to grant the wish of all Richie McCaw fans – to experience what it’s like to be on set with the legend himself. You won’t just see behind the scenes, you’ll explore the set to get a feeling of being there."
Kerr says using Canvas took a bit of figuring out but it was relatively simple after getting the hang of it.
"We had to figure out how to use it, as it doesn’t really come with an instruction manual. It has a pretty simple back-end but it definitely took about eight or nine different drafts before we had something we were happy with," he says.
"It’s cool to be able to produce it so you can see a preview really quickly," he says. "It's not as easy to do with other digital media, where you can see what the finished product is going to look like."
Kerr says the planning for Westpac's use of Canvas spanned right back to the Richie McCaw shoot.
"We briefed the behind-the-scenes film crew. One tricky part is that the filmmakers need to think vertically rather than horizontally. We needed to tip that on its head to create something that works vertically, so we got into the shoot with that in mind and some of the other features like tilt-to-pan ..."
He says there are some limitations with Canvas. "It's very much a one-way form of communication. For example, you couldn't enter a competition. There is no way for the user to interact with it. They very much just consume it and move on. You can comment and share but in terms of having a conversation it's extremely limited."
Because this was DDB's first experience using Canvas, it took a while to build the microsite for Westpac.
"It did take us a couple of weeks," Kerr says. "I think in the future it will become faster. Once you know what you're doing it's relatively quick and you could have it done within an hour probably, once you have a plan down."
Kerr says DDB will "absolutely" use Canvas again. "I would love clients to view this as a pretty substantial piece of media and to be keen to invest and create a campaign," he says. "This was an adjunct to a TVC but with the viewing numbers we have seen we have really justified some serious production budgets."
The genius of Canvas is that you can tell a full, rich experience within a Facebook environment, he says. "You're not asking people to click a link which can take up to eight seconds. People are used to being on Facebook where things happen immediately. It's in everyone's best interests."
House of Travel marketing director Ken Freer said earlier what really impressed him about the launch of the first Canvas campaign was how quickly his social media agency Socialites pulled it all together.
“Normally, a campaign like this would have taken around four or five weeks to pull together, but they did it in fewer than two days,” he says.
As is common knowledge these days, the average person spends many hours on their phone per week, so it makes sense that Facebook would keep Canvas as an experience purely catered to mobile.
According to Ad Age some great things about Canvas that will make clicking on the ads more appealing are that it’s fast go get in and fast to get out, it's immersive, easy to build ads and according to Facebook the engagement rates are strong.
“Facebook boasts 12- and 18-second engagement rates in pilots conducted with Asus and Coca-Cola,” Ad Age reports.
However, brands using the platform will only succeed with Canvas long-term if the content produced is interesting. Curious mobile users might click on the ads initially, but once the novelty starts wearing off, the advertisers will need to continue to innovate and use the platform in unique and creative ways.