Commentary

Facebook's LiveRail Expands Into Mobile In-App Display

At yesterday’s Facebook F8 Developer Conference, the social network made several announcements regarding LiveRail, the video supply-side platform (SSP) it acquired last summer. Post-acquisition, Facebook had been relatively mum on its plans with LiveRail, but Wednesday’s announcements brought us up to speed.

Facebook’s plan: Bring LiveRail’s programmatic technology to the mobile in-app display advertising space.

“This will allow publishers to manage and optimize yield across all of their mobile advertising opportunities, including ads sold directly to advertisers and from programmatic sources like demand-side platforms (DSPs), ad networks, and agency trading desks,” writes LiveRail in a blog post explaining the news.

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“In addition to offering access to real-time bidding (RTB) demand through LiveRail’s connections to major ad networks and DSPs, mobile publishers will be able to use Facebook’s Audience Network to access 2 million Facebook advertisers,” the post adds.

It’s a significant announcement, because last summer one belief among the advertising community was that Facebook might never include mobile ad inventory via the Facebook Exchange (FBX). And while that’s technically still true -- LiveRail’s offering differs from FBX -- Wednesday’s announement still marks a Facebook-owned offering that allows marketers to purchase in-app mobile display inventory via programmatic.

The news reiterates something Facebook has drilled down the industry’s throats for the past 12-plus months: It’s a mobile-focused company. Maybe even mobile-obsessed.

Facebook is also improving LiveRail. Facebook added its “anonymized people-based marketing capabilities” to LiveRail, which the company asserts allows for more precise, privacy-friendly targeting by adding anonymous demographic data to the mix. LiveRail says A+E Networks, Dailymotion and Univision will be the first to test the “people-based marketing” approach.

LiveRail’s foray into the mobile in-app space sets it up to compete with the likes of Twitter’s MoPub, Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange and others. In fact, it has already won some business from those competitors.

Major League Gaming (MLG), a large e-Sports organization, is amidst a switch from Google DFP to LiveRail for mobile after being drawn to LiveRail’s mobile video offering. The fact LiveRail will soon support in-app display makes its mobile offering even more formidable. (MLG is still working with OpenX for mobile and display, as well.)

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