In a last-minute attempt at rebranding, Facebook has redubbed the advertisements that appear in its news feeds as “Featured,” not “Sponsored.” Facebook began placing the ads in the newsfeeds (which it labels a “Ticker”) on January 10. The typical ad calls for some interaction: a Slimfast ad, with Slimfast bottles pictured, asks the visitor to answer the poll question, “Do you like going to the gym?” with “Yes, love it,” “It’s OK,” or “Rather walk on hot coals.” The ads are also used for market research. A poll asks “The next time you purchase a computer, which brand of processor would you prefer?” with “AMD Only,” “Intel Only,” and combinations of the brands. Which company placed the ad/poll is impossible to tell.
As AdAge describes it, "featured" units are an incarnation of the earlier "sponsored stories" ad units that first appeared in January 2011. They appear on the right margin of a Facebook page to alert the visitor that a friend has "liked" or otherwise engaged with a brand. As a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch “We are using the term ‘featured’ because we want to make it clear to people that they’re seeing content from a Page or person they have chosen to connect to…we want to make it clear that marketers can only pay for stories to be featured in your News Feed if you have explicitly liked the Page,” or if a friend has.
Blogger Alicia Eler of ReadWriteWeb summed up the likely reaction: “Facebook users will certainly be pissed off about this change. But freemium comes with a price: Somewhat veiled adage for a user's Internet-addicted eyeballs.”