Showcasing Charleston, SC Through Facebook Canvas Ads

Let me walk you through a common scenario here at Blue Ion. I plaster on my friendliness grin, head over to the design table and in my cheeriest voice pose the question: “Who wants to make me a banner ad for X client?” The response: let’s just say it isn’t quite the same as when I pose the question “Who wants to design a website for X super cool client?”

The reality is not many designers get out of bed in the morning to make ads and most consumers don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of ads – that is unless said designer gets to create a super cool and creative ad and said consumer gets served a super cool and creative ad. One of the ad formats that lets us get a bit more creative is Facebook’s Canvas Ad. Tyler Pate and I have been experimenting with this format lately and we’re pretty excited about it.

Canvas ads are a mobile-exclusive ad format in the Facebook platform that allow you to do quite a bit. The behave sort of like a landing page and feel like more of a digital experience than an ad. As these began popping up in our own feeds we saw the opportunity these present to tell a story. We decided to test out this new format recently to tell the story of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau in a new form.

One of the first canvas ads we did for the CACVB was created to showcase one of Charleston’s best assets: its rich history. We’ve included a screen recording of this below. You’ll notice that one of the canvas features we had fun working with was the option to include images that you “explore” by tilting your phone. (Just imagine you are holding your phone and the image is moving with your hand.) We decided that showcasing beautiful, historic homes was the perfect use case for this fun feature allowing users to feel like they are exploring the space – or better yet wishing they were.

From a marketing standpoint, we were thrilled that we could include elements like carousels within the framework; it was like making 5 ads in one but only paying for one click. Shortly after launching (and crossing our fingers for good engagement benchmarks) we saw great feedback start to come in. Of all of our existing ads within the Facebook account, this ad received the most user engagement on Facebook with an ad, the highest number of sessions to the CACVB site, the highest total conversion count and conversion rate and the most impressive behavior metrics we had seen for visitors to the CACVB site coming from Facebook. In short, we were checking off all of our boxes and pretty amped up to create another canvas ad.

For our second canvas for the CACVB, we wanted to work video in. The focus for this canvas ad was decided to be on the Charleston beaches and we thought what better way to showcase the beauty of the beaches than include the stunning video Adam Boozer captured for the CACVB. Shortly after launch, we saw more encouraging benchmarks on the analytics side – we’d seen a new ad move to the top of the heap of the ads account.

We recently upgraded this canvas ad to mirror a popular beach quiz post from the CVB social team. The “pick a path” format allows the user to engage with each beach type and choose the one that best fits their vacation goals.

More recently, we wanted to take the creative up one more notch and decided to work in some hand-drawn illustrations which were made into subtle animated pieces in the canvas. Since its launch, this canvas has shown the highest behavior metrics of any ad currently running within the ads account. Users who click through it to the CACVB site after viewing this ad are spending more time on the site, viewing more pages and are completing our goal actions. While it’s still early to tell, this ad is positioned to become our best performing yet. Sensing a pattern here?

All in all, we’re pretty excited about this new ad format and will continue to test the different features available in the canvas. It’s great to know that users are not only acknowledging our ads but appreciating them. On our end, its great to feel like we are not just creating an ad but telling a story, and having the freedom within the canvas parameters to tell that story creatively makes it all the more (dare I say) exciting for the creative team.