Facebook's Cox unveils immersive future of mobile ads

Facebook's Chief Product Officer Christopher Cox.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Facebook's Chief Product Officer Christopher Cox.

On stage at the Cannes Lions advertising festival Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox is telling advertising executives that he hears what they were looking for-- more creative tools for crafting more immersive ads-- and he has the solution.

He's unveiling a new mobile format in the works. It aims to give advertisers the ability to create rich media that blends seamlessly with the videos users are spending more and more time watching in their news feeds, while making the ads interactive in a way that they haven't ever been before.

To illustrate his vision on what Facebook hopes to make possible, Cox uses an ad for a Michael Kors watch. It blends video with still images, moving images and information. And what really makes it different is that the ads are interactive: users will be able to push their finger across a screen to turn a watch around, or to zoom in for more details. And Cox says Facebook is working to make everything load faster.

This new formats plays into two huge trends fueling Facebook's growth over the past year, and, hopefully, its next leg of growth: mobile and video.

Mobile ads comprised 73 percent of the company's ad revenue in the first quarter, up from 59 percent in the year-earlier quarter. And Facebook now has 1.25 billion mobile monthly active users, a 24 percent increase from the year-earlier quarter.

Meanwhile video is becoming increasingly common in terms of content on Facebook-- the number of video posts created per person on Facebook increased 75 percent over the past year. It's also the most valuable ad format, and promises to lure TV ad dollars Facebook's way by offering the same rich media experience.

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While these new advertising tools are certainly designed on smartphones and tablets, Cox is careful to emphasize that the company is "building for the next billion people," most of whom will be on 2G phones. Cox says Facebook is distilling these tools so marketers will be able to translate these ads for feature phones, say with a moving photo, rather than a video.

Cox didn't announce exactly when Facebook will make these tools broadly available to advertisers to use, or how soon consumers will see these interactive ads, but a source close to the situation says we should expect them to launch broadly by the end of the year.