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Facebook experiments with bigger images in ads

The social network is making its marketplace ads too big to ignore in a small test with some users.


Facebook is fussing with the look of those fuddy-duddy ads it shows to members on the right-hand side of the website. The point is to get the easily ignored ads more clicks -- and to make more money, of course.

The social network today confirmed that it is conducting a small test in the U.S. and showing some users advertisements with bigger images. The new ad unit is a tweaked version of the standard "marketplace ads," or the ads you see in the right-hand column, and is distinct from the ads you find in the News Feed.

Screenshot/Inside Facebook

"We are running a small test in the U.S. where some people might see ads in the right-hand column that feature larger images," a company spokesperson told CNET. "We have seen that people respond favorably to larger images -- both from people and Pages -- in News Feed, and so we are testing this out on the right-hand side."

The altered unit was first spotted by Inside Facebook, which grabbed a screenshot of the unit, pictured right.

The format is distinct from typical ads in the right-hand sidebar as it includes a much larger and taller image that stretches across the width of the right-hand column. Ad text appears underneath the art. Currently, the experimental ads are only showing up on permalink pages, which are the pages you see when you click on the timestamp of a story.

"Facebook is clearly experimenting with larger images because images are more arresting -- pictures are worth the proverbial thousand words," Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter Group, told CNET. "Facebook pages are fairly cluttered with many types of content vying for the user's attention. With a proliferation of photos and video images, it's easy to see why Facebook would want to help advertisers cut through the clutter."

Marketplace ads are currently Facebook's primary money-maker -- at least until the social network can figure out how best to profit from the ads it runs directly in members' News Feeds on web and mobile. In late October, Facebook said it was averaging $4 million per day from News Feed ads, which COO Sheryl Sandberg has described as the cornerstone of the company's mobile monetization strategy. In the fourth quarter, Facebook said it made $1.33 billion from its advertising products.