Facebook partners with Shutterstock to dress up its worst-performing ads

FacebookAdsLet’s just admit it — we all dislike ads on (the right hand side of) our Facebook (s FB) pages. Some of that dislike comes from them being just plain ugly and poorly retargeted. It is hardly a surprise that the click-through rates on these low-cost ads are abysmal. A study by AdRoll last year showed that traditional ad-retargeting nabs 40% more clicks than a Facebook ad. Ouch!
Facebook has become aware of the flagging performance of these ads, especially in the face of its successful (if intrusive) deployment of ads in the News Feed. In order to boost its cheaper offerings, Menlo Park, Calif.-based social media giant has partnered with stock image company Shutterstock (s SSTK) to make pictures available to advertisers for free, according to the company’s blog.

“High-quality, engaging photos often increase the performance of ads, particularly in News Feed. And now, through our collaboration with Shutterstock, it will be easier for businesses to integrate beautiful photography into their Facebook ads.  In the coming weeks, marketers will have access to millions of images from the Shutterstock library — at no additional cost. Shutterstock’s images are commercially licensed and available for use in all Facebook ad formats. Thanks to Shutterstock’s API and search capabilities, these images will be fully searchable and accessible directly within Facebook’s ad creation tool.”

What does that mean? Advertisers will be able to access Shutterstock’s library of more than 25 million images through an API embedded in Facebook’s ad creation tool — no extra browsing necessary.
In addition, advertisers will have the power to select multiple photos for a single ad in an opportunity to do image A/B testing. Ideally all of Facebook’s potential advertisers would find out what makes their ads the prettiest to look at, and funnel more money into that rather than ugly images.
It’s hard to tell whether a gussied-up look will help the problem, considering how far these ads lag behind in Facebook’s offerings.
A study by Salesforce and Social.com shows that these ads get clicked roughly less than half of a percent of the time compared to more expensive ad-buys on the site. While users will no doubt appreciate a better-looking ad stack next to their feed, it’s difficult to guarantee that nicer pictures will create more favorable responses to ads. In any case, Facebook is trying its best to make its ad offerings as good-looking as possible, so users won’t encounter the eyesores they’re normally used to on their pages.