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Facebook: What Are You Waiting for?

  |  October 9, 2012   |  Comments

It's time for Facebook to create or buy an existing ad network and throw the weight of its current client base, profiled user base, and sales team against it.

A lot of reporting has been done about FBX (the Facebook Exchange) and I do think the ability to utilize retargeting with ads that appear on Facebook is very cool and will improve its performance. But I think Facebook is missing the point and still barking up the wrong tree.

Facebook only has so much super valuable ad real estate on its site that captures users' focus in both desktop and mobile. So short of cluttering up the newsfeed it is running out of options here. The reality is the newsfeed a) has limited real estate and b) people have limited tolerance for commercial messages being inserted between status updates from people and organizations they actually care enough about. Furthermore, Facebook is still sitting on the sidelines of big, high-impact branding campaigns that utilize rich media and standard IAB banner sizes.

The answer: the Facebook Display Network. Facebook should create or buy an existing ad network and throw the weight of its current client base, profiled user base, and sales team against it. What the Google Display Network (formerly AdSense) is to Google, the Facebook Display Network would be for Facebook.

So if I could speak directly to anyone from Facebook reading this - this is a no-brainer! Here are some reasons why you should do this and fast!

  • You could offer the most amazing and accurate ad networking targeting and still maintain the security and privacy of your users.
  • You would pick up a ton of desktop/laptop screen as inventory so the issue of how do you monetize the huge percentage of your audience that is mobile would be less troubling.
  • You already have cookies set on close to a billion profiled users - the cookie pool is there and ready to go!
  • You could instantly acquire a huge amount of ad inventory - billions of impressions - without cluttering up your site with new types of ads.
  • You could stop changing things for advertisers and users every few months trying to figure out the best way to make money, making all of our lives better.
  • You could start serving IAB Standard Ad Units (not on your site of course but on your network) thereby making things much easier for agencies and marketers.
  • Agencies and marketers would not have to think of unique creative concepts just to test your environment - you could be instantly added to a media plan with no fuss!
  • Big brands like high-impact multimedia, animation, video, engagement - all the things you cannot do with a Facebook ad unit. So you could start serving rich media and get in on all those big-money, high-impact branding campaigns everywhere.
  • Your option would instantly be added to every media plan.
  • All kinds of cool native social functionality (sharing, chatting, liking, endorsing, etc.) could still be worked into your ads without compromising privacy.
  • You would instantly turn on a new revenue stream and boost your stock price!
  • You would be more successful for your advertisers!

Now there is one little wrinkling here but it may end up being a bump in the road. Explorer's new default "Do Not Track" option. If this becomes standard it could be an in issue not just for this idea but all retargeting, tracking, and ad networks. However, since blocking cookies makes web browsing very clunky, most marketers and sites are fighting this tooth and nail and the actual number of people who use Explorer in stats I see range from as low as 16 percent to around 30 percent. (Just search Google for "Web Browser Usage Stats" to see.) Also, people are likely to allow Facebook's cookie to be set since it makes accessing Facebook and liking things on the web so much easier. So while people with do-not-track on may ding the inventory levels for the network, I don't think it will be a fatal blow. Certainly Google (owner of Chrome) relies heavily on retargeting and tracking for everything from AdWords to Google Analytics to retargeting on the Google Network. So it is unlikely Google will build this into its browser as a default feature.

So, tell me what you think in the comments. And if you want to read more on this subject, see my column "What a Facebook Ad Network Might Look Like" from back in August that explores all the stuff Facebook knows about you!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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