As Facebook’s global user base soared to 1.71 billion in the second quarter, its ad revenue soared too, up 63% in Q2 to $6.24 billion. And that, along with the growing clutter in your Facebook news feed, might make you wonder: Are you seeing more ads on Facebook these days?
The answer is yes. The growth of Facebook’s total ad impressions (the number of times an ad is seen) was 49% last quarter, about even with the 50% growth of the prior quarter.
When the ad impression grew 29% in Q4 of last year, it was the first positive growth in two years, since Q3 of 2013. Since then, it shows no sign of slowing. Meanwhile, Facebook’s price-per-ad growth rate was up this quarter, but has been basically declining for four quarters. So if it’s failing to grow the price it can command per ad, what can it do? Show you more of the ads that it sells. Just look at the below chart.
As Facebook said in its Q2 earnings call on Wednesday (the bolding is ours): “T
In other words: with the rise of mobile use (Facebook’s mobile ad revenue now accounts for a staggering 84% of its overall ad revenue), Facebook is getting more ad impressions on smartphones than ever.
To be clear, ad impressions are not the same as ad volume. Facebook can show the same ad to more people to get more ad impressions, without adding more ads in total (ad volume, or “load”).
But it is also adding more ads in total.
“We don’t disclose exact numbers regarding ad load,” a Facebook spokesperson tells Yahoo Finance.
The last time it did so was in Q3 2013, when then-CFO David Ebersman said that 5% of the stories in News Feed were ads. That percentage has gone up since 2013, analysts say, though Facebook will not share the current figure. Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts Facebook’s ad load will grow 5% in the next year.
On its Q2 earnings call Wednesday, CFO Dave Wehner addressed ad load, and confirmed that it has risen, without sharing the exact figure: “We anticipate ad load on Facebook will continue to grow modestly over the next 12 months, and then will be a less significant factor driving revenue growth after mid-2017.” Clearly, as JPMorgan said in a post-earnings note, whatever the ad load figure is 12 months from now is “what management currently believes could be near the optimal level.”
Translation: Soon enough, Facebook won’t need to add more volume of ads, because it can just wring more impressions out of the ads it sells.
Much of that spike in impressions will happen on Instagram, which is driving Facebook’s ad growth—specifically video ads on Instagram. The most common buyers of Facebook’s “app-install” ads (which, when clicked, direct you to the App Store to download an app) are tech startups looking to get you to try their app. And those ads sell well on Instagram, which recently hit 500 million users and has more than 200,000 different advertisers (compared to 3 million on Facebook). They sell so well that Credit Suisse is forecasting $3.2 billion in revenue for Instagram in 2016.
Facebook is also using Instagram for dynamic ads, which allow advertisers to upload their current products in real-time, and change the images shown to users. As CFO Wehner said on the call, “Over 300 million people see dynamic ads each month and over 2.5 billion unique products have been uploaded by marketers. In Q2, we expanded dynamic ads to Instagram.”
So even if and when Facebook’s ad volume goes down, it will seek to boost impressions of those ads through Instagram and on Facebook’s mobile app.
Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.