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P&G to test new ads inspired by Facebook sponsored content

Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble will be rolling out ads with a new format that mirror sponsored content often found on Facebook, introducing a social approach to digital advertising.

P&G partnered with British grocery chain Asda, who has also reeled in Unilever and PepsiCo, to execute ads structured to drive engagement and serve as less of an interruption and more of a conversation. These ads will be visible on the retailer's Web site?s homepage on desktop and mobile, due to Asda executives? beliefs that users are more susceptible to interruptions on homepages. 

?What?s interesting about this move is that it shows how brands are starting to better understand and activate social media within the purchase funnel,? said Tim Dunn, director of mobile and strategy at Isobar, United States. ?Procter and Gamble generally operate in low-interest categories, as opposed to Adidas or Samsung, so continuing any interest they have from their own social channels towards purchase is traditionally very difficult. 

Mr. Dunn is not affiliated with P&G but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

P&G did not respond by press deadline.

Sociable ads
?According to The Drum, these pop-up ads, as Asda refers to them, claim to be the first of its kind among British retailers and will provide a cluster of four items. Viewers will be asked to choose their favorite of the four and then can directly place that chosen product into their shopping cart.

In the past, surveys that request click throughs on sites have long been deemed as spam, and consumers are much less likely to click on something questionable. However, if the ads are executed clearly and pop up in a different way than typical spam, they have a potential to socially engage shoppers.

Sponsored posts on Facebook are friendly to users given the relationship they initiate by pointing out other friends who have clicked ?Like,? which give the ads a reputable presentation and users are not afraid to click.

Asda has been using these ads, without mobile purchasing and pop-up components, on its site for three years and were built by technology partner Constant Commerce. 

Asda is selling these blocks to P&G and others based on impressions rather than on their time period of appearance. Executives estimate one million impressions equate to about one week of appearance on the site.

The ads will have memory capabilities to remember prior purchases and more closely target consumers with appropriate products.

Revamped digital ads?
Earlier this year, a P&G executive said the company is reducing its marketing budget this year, but still expects the overall impact to be well ahead of previous years thanks, in part, to a bigger focus on mobile and social strategies. 

While P&G has been actively embracing mobile for some time, the comments made by the consumer packaged goods giant?s chief financial officer Jon Moeller are significant because, as one of the biggest spenders on advertising and marketing, they reflect how mobile and social are impacting the marketing sector. In particular, the comments point to the growing reallocation of budgets away from traditional media, the growing importance of mobile and social startups and the evolving role of ad agencies (see story).

Early months of 2014 showed a struggle among brands to effectively leveraging mobile social for brand building, but the must-haves for successful strategies have emerged.

Creating mobile social campaigns that consumers can relate to on an emotional level and want to share with their social networks can help brands build awareness and loyalty, something Procter & Gamble has been doing successfully this year for a couple of its brands. However, there is also the potential for a surge in negative sentiment, such as several McDonald?s, Coca-Cola and other Olympics sponsors recently found out (see story).

If these ads are successful, P&G will be developing relationships with their consumers through social advertising meanwhile directing them to a point of purchase.

?The real smarts here are that they are capitalizing on the closer relationship that the retailer has with consumers, but critically, they are bringing the social engagement in much closer proximity to the point of purchase,? Mr. Dunn said. ?Embedding engagement techniques much more closely to the heart of commerce is going to be a big trend in how brands sell products over the next couple of years.?

Final Take?
Caitlyn Bohannon, editorial assistant for Mobile Marketer, New York