Facebook Downplays FBX, But Touts Real-Time Super Bowl Targeting

Remember the hype and trepidation surrounding the launch of Facebook’s FBX exchange just a few years ago? Suddenly, Facebook is in the weird position only a few years later of insisting that FBX is still alive and well.

At a conference last week, Facebook’s VP of Business and Marketing Partnerships David Fischer appeared to be de-emphasizing the role of FBX in the company’s ad suite going forward. A number of industry folk tweeted from the conference that FBX sounded near-dead. When asked later about the real position of the exchange, Fischer gave a lukewarm endorsement. Per AdExchanger, Fischer said, “We still hear from many marketing partners that they find a lot of success in FBX and they invest in it. As long as that’s the case, we think there’s a nice opportunity.”

A “nice opportunity.” Considering that the overwhelming majority of Facebook traffic comes from mobile, where FBX has not been extended, Fischer seems to be consigning FBX to a sideshow. Facebook sees its future in native advertising, especially video, but driven by its Custom Audiences product that cuts neatly across desktop and mobile and offers more creative possibilities than FBX.



I am assuming that Facebook’s reticence in bringing FBX to mobile was less of a cookie-tracking issue (since it does have logins, after all) but a creative and revenue calculation. The mobile experience can only fit so many ad types, and the larger app install (still much of what I see in a FB feed), and promised video advertising simply fit better in the feed than the DR and retargeting units in FBX.

But while de-emphasizing FBX, Facebook is now ramping up the flexibility of its other ad products starting with the Super Bowl. Facebook will be offering advertisers the opportunity to target in-stream ads to Super Bowl fans and viewers. According to an Advertising Agereport, Facebook will be building audience segments based both on status updates and posted comments that can be related to the game. Anyone posting content related to the game or commenting on keywords deemed relevant will be put into an audience segment that can be targeted. The company already has 50 million members who are segmented as having interacted with game content last year. Facebook will also be using a broader range of keywords to find audiences who may not be hardcore fans but are engaged with the commercials.

The new wrinkle for Facebook is that the targeting will be done close to real time. While in standard Facebook targeting it can take a day for audience members to throw off a signal before being included in a segment, now they will be added to this segment within minutes of making a relevant post.

Is this good for consumers? The downside of this near-real-time targeting approach is that it could invite every lame-brained brand newsroom team to post their near-miss comments in yet another venue. Likewise, Super Bowl advertisers will be looking to protect their massive on-air investment by echoing their ads in the Facebook feed. And the increasing numbers of advertisers now opting out from a TV spot have  created a new anti-Super Bowl ad genre by using social media to explain how clever they were in not participating in the TV cacophony. Which of course only adds to the social media  stream clutter.

The Super Bowl has become an unwieldy, cacophonous, all-screen monster. Too many marketing signals are now coming from all quarters. Now that it is counter-programmed online and in social channels, we have Super Bowl super clutter. The major hashtags around the game last year were an unmanageable fire hose of warring voices that cascaded past too quickly for mere mortals to view.

Interestingly, both Twitter and now Facebook are quick to capitalize on the advertising opportunity the Super Bowl represents for them. Neither has much to say about how it plans to make the experience for the consumer any more pleasant, orderly or complementary to the game itself.  

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