While the social media network is once again starting to push facial recognition as a user safeguard in the European Union, sparking yet another round of ethical and security questions, the platform in the U.S. is ready to monetize the technology and is rolling out “augmented commerce,” as Ty Ahmad-Taylor, Facebook’s head of business product marketing, phrased it.
Since it’s really never too early for advertisers and those who depend on their spending — like Facebook — to start planning for the all-important holiday season, the reveal came during Facebook’s annual holiday product event. Basically, the advance is making use of facial recognition technology to allow users to “try on” something like sunglasses or a lipstick from a specific brand within Facebook and Messenger, hopefully making the decision to actually buy a product that much more likely. As for what, if any, data is being saved by Facebook when it’s tracking a user’s face, that didn’t come up.
What was clear is that marketers and brands are ever-eager to see a push into digital pay off since creating a “thumb-stopping” moment on social media, be it Facebook or its sister platform Instagram, is getting harder with each brand that joins the social media fray.
“Even in the Facebook Newsfeed, there’s so much noise,” said Travis Freeman, executive vice president of digital agency VaynerMedia, during a panel discussion.
That may be true, but Facebook has successfully positioned Instagram as a sort of advertising-alternative for brands, and it’s looking to give advertisers another way to drive sales. Shopping through Instagram Stories, which now counts 400 million daily users, is expected to go platform-wide before the holiday season. The same goes for use of the Collection option, which essentially hosts a shoppable selection of a brand or company’s products within Instagram, instead of just a single product or a click-through to a brand’s web site.
Facebook is also launching a “video creation kit” in an effort to make the building of “mobile-first” ads easier. Ahmad-Taylor noted that surveys of Facebook users found 79 percent prefer to watch a video about a product than read text and the number of brands and businesses hosting video on Facebook quadrupled over the last year.
Yes, Facebook has an undeniably strong hold on advertising, which made up nearly all of its more than $40 billion in 2017 revenues, but it obviously has no intention of letting brands feel like they could do without it. Not that that’s yet even an inkling among most advertisers, despite the stream of privacy issues created by collecting and leveraging user data, which now could include the minute emotions of one’s face.
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