Facebook Expands Ad Reach Off-Network, Will Now Target Users Not Connected To Facebook

In a move that extends its market power beyond the 1.6 billion user identities it explicitly controls, Facebook this morning announced it will expand the reach of its audience network beyond its own platform to serve ads targeted to its users even when they aren’t connected to Facebook. The move comes three years after Facebook acquired the Atlas ad server from Microsoft, and two years after it used it as the basis to create the Facebook Audience Network with third-party publishers and app developers who affiliated directly with Facebook.

“In the past, we’ve only shown ads in these places to people who have Facebook accounts,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president-ads and business platform said in a blog post this morning announcing the expansion. “Today, we’re expanding Audience Network so publishers and developers can show better ads to everyone – including those who don’t use or aren’t connected to Facebook.”



Facebook said it was extending its reach in an effort to improve the quality of advertising experiences for all consumers -- and advertisers -- not just the ones that were connected explicitly through Facebook. The move is not unlike how Google expanded its market leverage vis a vis AdWords over the past 15 years, and just like Google, Facebook indicated it is utilizing ad quality scoring methods to ensure the right ads get to the right people and are more effective for advertisers.

In his post, Bosworth implied the moves were designed to improve consumer experience and to give them more control over the ads they see too.

“We also offer everyone controls over the ads they see, including tools to opt out of online interest-based advertising. If you have an account, you can do this directly from your Facebook settings, and we honor your choice wherever you use Facebook,” he wrote, adding, “Your ad preferences also help us show you better ads on and off Facebook. If you have an account, you can edit your ad preferences to tell us if you want to see ads based on specific interests, like travel or television. Starting today, you can opt out of seeing ads on apps and websites not offered by Facebook based on your ad preferences.”

While Facebook said the goal of the expansion is to create better user experiences for consumers and advertisers, it also consolidates more market power behind what observers increasingly describe as Facebook’s “walled garden,” making it an even more important gatekeeper of the ads people see, or now, the ones they don’t.
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