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Facebook makes column ads too big to miss

The social network is rolling out bigger right-hand column ads in the hopes of pleasing marketers and members alike.


Facebook said Wednesday that it will magnify the size of advertisements that appear in the right-hand column on its Web site in an effort to better grab members' attention and make advertisers happy.

The new right-hand column ads, which will start to appear later this month, will be larger in size. They will have the same aspect ratio of the ads that run in News Feed and span the full width of the right column, which means marketers can run the same image in any of their ads. The larger size also means that members will see fewer ads displayed in the right column.

Ultimately, the changes are meant to boost engagement and make the not-exactly-sexy ad format more appealing to advertisers and more fetching to users. Facebook said that initial tests yielded three times the engagement as the smaller format.

In emulating the format of News Feed ads, the right-hand column ads could become noticeably better in quality. The column units have developed a reputation for being less than striking or eye-catching for all the wrong reasons.

"Think belly fat and miracle weight-loss [ads]," said Altimeter digital advertising and media analyst Rebecca Lieb. "Fewer, larger, more visual ads are more noticeable and arresting."

Lieb views the change as having positive implications for the social network's advertising business, which grew 76 percent year over year to $2.34 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.

"Facebook has been promising for a while that it will discontinue the rather cheesy ads it's been running in the right-hand bar," Lieb told CNET. "This new product is more premium and I'd venture a guess that it will prove more effective too."

The social network is set to report its first quarter earnings on April 23 after market close. Shares are trading at around $61 a piece, or up nearly 5 percent from Tuesday's close of $58.19.