Commentary

Floodgates Open To Better Ads: Facebook Audience Network Expands Reach

Today a whopping one in five mobile minutes is spent on Facebook and Instagram, according to Facebook stats.

Each of these minutes is personalized, featuring a different experience for every unique user, and tailored by the high-powered interest and behavioral data at the core of Facebook’s business.

For those of us who see the trend, it follows that the Web is becoming more personal and contextual by the minute. Tomorrow’s internet experience will be more personal than today’s, and the old static web will eventually disappear altogether.

A new era of digital display advertising quietly emerged over the last few weeks, and while the shakeup has concerned some, it’s a more data-driven, quality-controlled, and, yes, personalized future for sure. This is happening thanks to the same data powering Facebook’s native advertising success.

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The Rise of the Facebook Audience Network

Last week, Facebook poked more than a few bears inside the digital advertising community by announcing dramatic changes to the Facebook Audience Network (FAN) that will enable advertisers to deliver Facebook-powered ads beyond Facebook’s current addressable audience, expanding reach to non-Facebook users.

What’s more, FAN, which began as a network of mobile apps, has also expanded beyond mobile to desktop, bringing Facebook-powered ads into the open Web. These announcements indicate the company is breaking free from the confines of its owned-and-operated properties. The famed walled garden of Facebook has opened up and will now multiply across new digital destinations.

The new FAN is poised to offer advertisers a way to extend campaigns to much larger global populations without forfeiting Facebook’s incredibly powerful targeting tools to create the most personalized, contextual, and relevant ad experiences possible.

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president, ads and business platforms, said these changes were made “so publishers and developers can show better ads to everyone -- including those who don’t use or aren’t connected to Facebook.” It could eventually mean a Facebook-powered future fit to compete with traditional channels like television.

It’s All About Facebook, which is All About People

Say goodbye to the days when all you could do was target based on demographics or geographic location, and say hello to a future where you can target audiences of like individuals -- even if they aren’t known by Facebook as intimately as it knows its active monthly users. Facebook has spent years accruing the richest and most accurate set of metadata about almost 1.6 billion of the world’s people, and, armed with that, it’s setting out to get to know another 1.6 billion people on earth who also use the Internet. The company’s recent announcements seem to confirm a previously implied vision for the future of digital display advertising.

Over the course of last year, Facebook made it clear that it was divesting its LiveRail and Facebook Exchange (FBX). The beginning of the end happened in February of 2015, when the company launched a technology called Dynamic Ads (originally dubbed Dynamic Product Ads). This extended the power of desktop-only FBX retargeting to Facebook’s mobile apps, and rendered FBX almost completely inert. It also squashed the potential for an exchange-based future for Facebook advertisers by putting Facebook in sole control of its auctions, since Dynamic Ads enable high-speed retargeting within the Facebook API.

While some fear the notion of Facebook having full control over its ads and their prices, the majority should rejoice because Facebook is opening its vault of rich user data and a new set of admittedly less comprehensive data about non-users, which still has the potential to outperform current standards for display targeting. Facebook seems to be saying the Web will become personalized through data about the world’s humans, not through a programmatic arms race designed to commoditize digital advertising.  

Goodbye to Spam and Hello to Personalized Relevance

As Facebook stakes a new claim on ad delivery in the open Web, Internet users should expect the company to continue fighting spam. This has certainly been observed by advertisers running ads inside the Facebook ecosystem over the years, who’ve come to see the Facebook News Feed as a premium placement. Likewise, Facebook’s data will now be backing the world’s publishers, who’ve been driven to the brink of extinction by the commoditization of programmatic display and fraud -- something Facebook’s fought very effectively so far. The future is unmistakably bright for digital advertising, especially for early social advertising believers, who anticipated a more personalized and contextual Web years ago.

With so much time today spent on personalized sites like Facebook and Instagram, it’s become vital for businesses to generate more personalized advertising efforts through detailed information gathered proprietarily as well as through third-party sources like Facebook. Increased ad relevance can only increase effectiveness. The future of effective advertising depends on it. The future of display advertising is all about quality, and it’s being etched in stone by Facebook’s tools, whether traditionalists like it or not.

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