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University Marketing & Communications

January 24, 2017

Advertising on mobile apps: Facebook Canvas

Sasha Im

man viewing phone in bed

How important is marketing to smartphone users? Consider these latest findings:

  • People keep their phones nearby in pockets or purses, and they constantly check their devices while waiting in line, working at their desks or sitting in a meeting (ahem).
  • Most smartphone owners (71 percent) sleep with their phones next to them, according to a 2015 study done by Bank of America on 1,000 users. The phone is often the last thing they look at before they shut their eyes, and the first device they reach for after waking up.
  • Mobile web browsing is now higher than desktop web browsing, according to a November 2016 study. More Google searches are happening on mobile than on desktop in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.

    30 seconds on a stopwatch

  • Users spend an average of 5 hours each day on mobile apps and mobile websites, according to a 2015 British study. However, short bursts of activity lasting less than 30 seconds account for half of the uses. The takeaway: Try to create marketing content that can be consumed within 30 seconds.
  • According to a 2015 report from Facebook, 90 percent of Facebook users, or 1.44 billion out of 1.59 billion, use their mobile devices to access the social network. Over half of all Facebook users, 823 million out of 1.59 billion, use ONLY their mobile devices to access Facebook.

Mobile-first marketing

With phone use being so dominant, many companies including Facebook are offering new ways to reach mobile audiences. Canvas, which was released in 2016, is an advertising platform that’s visible only on the Facebook mobile app.

UMAC has started exploring Canvas and we’ve found it to be a visually rich way to promote the UW brand. Rather than using just one image and one block of text as in traditional banner ads, Canvas allows for a series of images, text boxes, and video to tell a more complete story.


Images from a UW Canvas ad

Tips for creating a Canvas ad

  • Design for the thumb: Remember that people tend to scroll quickly on their mobile device. Build content that’s engaging and compelling enough for their thumbs to stop.
  • Put the call to action where the thumb can easily reach it. Check out this guide.
  • Prepare a set of vibrant images (3-4) to tell your story.
  • Use text boxes to complement the images, but keep text concise to about 5-10 words in each box.
  • Be creative and stay away from jargon or academic-speak.
  • If you use a video, keep it under 30 seconds. Remember that short bursts of activity is the habit for most people. UMAC has found that for a video that received several thousand views on Facebook, the average length of viewing was 14 seconds.
  • Speak in silence: Consider ways to make your video comprehensible without volume. UMAC found that most people who play our videos on Facebook have the volume off.
  • Include hyperlinks to your website, but be aware that most people who look at your ad may want to remain on Facebook and not click away. To be successful, try to create an ad that can stand alone and give viewers a good sense of your story and a good feeling about the UW brand.

More info:
Canvas’s website gives step-by-step instructions
Facebook Canvas: The What, Why, How and Who Cares?
Designing for Large Screen Smartphones