Peter Kafka

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Facebook Kills Off Its Search Ads (Updated)

Game of Thrones cutRemember when Facebook was going to go toe-to-toe with Google by selling ads in its search results?

Well, that’s over.

Facebook is killing off its “sponsored results” ad unit, just a year after launching it (and less than a year after its formal launch). This is part of the Great Facebook Ad Slimdown of 2013 that the company announced last week, where it will be killing off some of its 27 different ad units.

(Update: A Facebook rep clarified that after sponsored results go away, the company will still be selling search ads. If you type a query into the company’s search box, then click on the “Web search” option, you’ll see a page that includes sponsored links from Microsoft’s Bing engine. And it may add additional search ads down the line.)

Facebook said it has yet to figure out how many of those ad units it is actually going to execute, so apparently it will be making a series of announcements in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! (This has a very “Hunger Games” feel to it, right?)

Recall that lots of smart people said that Facebook search ads would be a natural winner, and that chatter got even louder once Facebook announced its “Graph Search” upgrade. But apparently they underwhelmed.

As always, this is yet another good reminder that Facebook’s ad strategy is under construction, so it’s likely to continue experimenting with stuff, and tossing out the ones that don’t work. If advertisers are cool with that experimentation, then no worries. But if they lose patience with it …

Here’s Facebook’s official explanation of the axing:

“In keeping with the goal of streamlining our ad products, starting in July advertisers will no longer be able to buy sponsored results. We’ve seen that most marketers were buying sponsored results to advertise their apps and games, and we already offer mobile app install ads and Page post link ads on desktop to achieve these same goals.”

And here’s what a Sponsored Result ad looked like in search results (it’s the one for Marvel):

sponsored result facebook ad

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”