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What will a Facebook mobile ad network mean for the industry?

Published: May 8, 2014

Author: Sean Nowlin

During my career in display advertising, I have been exposed to all portions of the spectrum: from high-cost/high-profile homepage takeovers all the way down to network buys.  The idea is to balance high- and low-cost buys in order to maximize unique reach, potential conversions, and awareness/purchase intent. (Remember that word: balance.)
Nowadays, real-time bidding (RTB) is a primary option for ad network budgets, but the success and continued dominance of the Google Display Network (GDN) proves that the ad network model (think Yahoo and MSN a few years back) definitely isn’t dead.  Google gets to use their proprietary search and user profile data against a very large inventory source. Which has provided a very nice model for…
Yup, Facebook.  Now that Facebook seemingly has figured out the mobile ad space on their own properties, they are poised to bring that success to their publisher partners.  It will take some time for advertisers and publishers to take full advantage of a new network, but there is no doubt that this is a game-changer for the industry.
In short, a company with a super-huge audience and loads of data comes late to the mobile party but is now set to dominate the mobile ad network space.  Very much like Google, Facebook will be able to tap their immense piles of data and allow advertisers to reach an audience across a vast mobile space. Now armed with an ad server, Facebook is poised to out-Google Google.  The question is whether or not the two rivals will be able to co-exist.  In my opinions, as with any sensibly balanced campaign, both players will occupy lines on a big media plan.
Some advertisers will never need to venture outside Facebook’s mobile network, just as some advertisers do quite well sticking to GDN.  However, medium-to-large advertisers would do well to keep a balanced strategy.  By using proper tracking tools, a single ad server (one source of truth), and good analytics, advertisers should be able to leverage unique reach and optimal frequency across many sources of inventory.  Balance the top of the funnel with the bottom; mix higher-cost placements with lower-cost reach.  The point is that any good display strategy will have a mix of partners & tactics, and that mix will soon include Facebook.
The announcement at F8 next week should be interesting.  There are many things to investigate.  I, for one, will be interested to see how it plugs in to an advertiser’s tech stack.  Will it be more like GDN?  Or will it play nice with others?
Regardless of the details, a couple of things are certain.  The giants in advertising can still mark their territory.  Huge audiences can provide scale and efficiency.  But now, more then ever, advertisers have to weigh that against the pitfalls of putting their eggs in one basket.  Just remember: balance is a good thing.

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