Facebook users view sponsored posts in the feed for 130% longer than sponsored ads to the right.

Facebook, the largest social media platform with over 1 billion active monthly users, (source: Facebook), accounts for 9% of global digital advertising spend, almost 46% of which comes from the US and Canada (Source: Invesp). With its sheer number of active users, plus its sophisticated targeting abilities, the platform provides advertisers with a way of reaching a very specific group of potential customers – those who are likely to be interested in the offering based on the information provided by that individual in their personal Facebook account.

Mediative wanted to find out how individual Facebook users interacted with sponsored ads – those on the right, and those placed within the users feed.

Facebook ads


Data was collected during eye-tracking sessions with 39 participants who came into Mediative’s lab. Participants were requested to search on Facebook, logging into their own personal account, and they were given 3 minutes to browse Facebook as they usually would.

We identified all of the sponsored features that were displayed during each session and measured the interaction of users with those particular elements.

The key metrics measured were:

  • Time to First Fixation – how long it takes the participant to fixate on an ad.
  • Total Visit Duration – how long the participant spent in total fixating on the ad.
  • Visit Count – how many times the participant came back to look at the ad.
  • Percentage Fixated – the percentage of all participants who looked at the ad.
  • Percentage Clicked – the percentage of all participants who clicked on the ad.

A fixation is when we hold our eyes still and actually take in visual information. A typical fixation lasts from 100-300 milliseconds, and we generally fixate 3-4 times per second (Source: www.tobii.com).


  • Sponsored posts in the feed were viewed 22,7% faster than sponsored ads to the right.
  • Sponsored posts in the feed were viewed for 130% longer on average than sponsored ads to the right.

This is likely because the sponsored posts are more native to the page – people typically scroll through their news feed when they log in to Facebook – see heat map below – and will therefore naturally gaze at the sponsored news feed ads more.

The image below shows an Old Spice sponsored ad, shown to a 29 year-old male. For comparison’s sake, the image below is from the same Facebook user’s interaction with a similar post from one of their Facebook friends. The amount of time spent viewing the sponsored ad is not significantly less than the amount of time spent viewing postings from friends.

Facebook ads heat map-3

To view the ads on the right requires the natural gaze to move away from the news feed. Also, we know from previous studies that on a Google search engine results page, the attention paid to, and clicks captured by the right rail sponsored ads has dropped significantly in the past decade. People are searching differently as a result of mobile usage, and ad-avoidance.

The heat map below shows that this Facebook user did view the top ad on the right rail, but not for as long as the sponsored ad in the news feed.


The average Facebook CTR is reported as being 1.5% (Scribd) – we saw CTRS of 3% for the right sponsored ads, and 5% for the in-feed sponsored ads. Scridb also reports that Facebook CTRs have risen over 266% year over year across all campaigns and show no signs of slowing down.

How do Facebook ads compare to IAB ads on the web?

Mediative recently released a paper that looked at standard display ad units, and how people browsing the web interact with them – do they look at the ads, do they click on the ads? In that particular study, we reviewed ads that were relevant to the site or search query, and those that were irrelevant to the site or search query.

For the sake of comparison, we will assume that ads shown in each individual’s feed on Facebook were relevant, and compare to the results of the relevant ads from the aforementioned study.

  • Standard: 16.6% of ads that were served were viewed
  • Facebook Side Ads: 15% were viewed
  • Facebook Sponsored Ads: 18% were viewed.

As we can see, standard ad units on the web and Facebook ads capture a similar number of views from users.

Tips for advertisers to capture more clicks and views from online display ads:

  1. Have different ad creatives with different messaging that will appeal to different searchers as they make their way along the buying cycle.
  2. Ads will drive other behaviours in people, not just a click, and for brand awareness campaigns, no direct action is necessarily expected. Website visits, search metrics, etc. must all be taken into consideration.
  3. Know your audience and understand their likely behaviour when creating goals for your ad campaigns.

For more tips on how to increase views of, and engagement with, display ads online, download Mediative’s research papers:

Rebecca Maynes
Rebecca Maynes is Mediative’s Manager, Content Marketing and Research. Her expertise lies in the creation of engaging thought leadership for Mediative. From compiling eBooks and case studies, to conducting research, analyzing data and writing white papers and reports, Rebecca is an integral part of Mediative’s Marketing and Research team. Rebecca began her career with Yell.com in England, and, after emigrating to Canada in 2005, she has gone full circle, joining Mediative, a Yellow Pages Group Company, in 2009. Prior positions include Marketing for a B2B Software company. Rebecca graduated from Cardiff University in Wales, UK, with a First Class Honours BSc in Business Administration.