Facebook to shake up chaotic mobile ads economy with Audience Network

1 May 2014

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Facebook has gone live with its mobile ads platform, Audience Network. At its developers conference F8 in San Francisco, California, last night, the social network also revealed Anonymous Login, so users can try an app without sharing personal information.

Facebook has 1.2bn users worldwide, and 1bn of those users access the social network via their mobiles.

The company’s big turnaround in financial performance and investor sentiment, it could be argued, occurred when it revealed last year just how much revenue was coming from mobile.

In its recent US$2.5bn quarter, Facebook revealed 59pc of revenues came from mobile.

Now things may become very serious and very interesting. Facebook's Audience Network mobile ad network enables developers to make money without having to sell their own ads.

Facebook described Audience Network as a way for advertisers to extend their campaigns beyond Facebook and into other mobile apps. That’s third-party apps, folks, and this will see Facebook take on established giants, such as Google’s AdMob network, for example.

“The entry of Facebook will without doubt shake up the market and keep at least some of these players awake at night,” said Eden Zoller, principal consumer telecoms analyst with Ovum.

Into the great wide open

This is actually a pretty big deal and a wake-up call for anyone who doubts the importance of mobile and apps today.

Effectively, developers can deploy Facebook banner ads straight into their apps by just inserting a tiny piece of code.

In effect, Facebook is attempting to profit by bringing order and simplicity to the chaotic world of advertising on mobile devices today.

The new Audience Network comes with targeting and measurement tools that currently apply in Facebook ads today, including Custom Audiences, core audience and lookalike audiences.

“For marketers already running News Feed ads on Facebook, using the Audience Network takes just one click,” Facebook explained. “The Audience Network will be available in all ad interfaces, as well as the API. Once a campaign is running in the Audience Network, our system handles optimisation and delivery.”

And with that subtle and easy step, Facebook has established for itself a firm beachhead on the new frontier, a vital toe-hold at the beginning of the age of mobile ads empire-building we can expect to determine the next two years of technology.

The impact on the mobile advertising universe

There is no doubt about it, Facebook is determined to be the de facto force in mobile marketing, not only in the social web but across the entire internet.

Zoller said the rollout of the Audience Network is highly significant move, as it is the first time Facebook will execute advertising on third-party applications.

“Facebook has tested the ground for a mobile advertising network in the past but has preceded with caution, sensibly waiting until it built the requisite mobile app advertising expertise, audience and brand traction on its own properties.

Zoller added the Audience Network may play a key role in driving further growth in mobile advertising going forward.

Anonymous Login

FB login anon

At F8, Facebook also revealed a new service called Anonymous Login, a new way for users to log into apps without sharing any personal information.

With Anonymous Login, users can decide if they want to share any additional information once they understand more about the app.

The feature is being tested with a few developers and it will be rolled out to more developers in the coming months.

Facebook also revealed a new version of Facebook Login, which it says has better privacy controls than before.

“With the new Login, people can select the data an app gets by unchecking categories of information, one by one,” Facebook said.

“For example, if someone wants to share their email address with an app, but not their birthday, they can make that choice with a couple taps.”

In what has been the first F8 in about three years, Facebook has sent a vital message to the developer community it rightly prizes dearly – we’ll give you the weapons, now get out there and conquer the wider web and we’ll all make money.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com