For years representatives from Facebook vehemently denied it was building an ad network as the industry collectively rolled its eyes in disbelief. Of course it was coming, we all thought as the heads continued to shake – with Facebook increasingly ubiquitous across the Internet, how could it dare miss out on such a dramatic revenue opportunity (especially after it went public)?
After a profusion of hints, last week saw the grand arrival of the mobile-based Facebook Audience Network. And talk about anti-climatic – Facebook’s news fell out of the ad tech trades in days (possibly hours).
Why after all that waiting and pondering did the industry lose interest? Because FAN is pretty much Facebook’s spin on audience extension, with the social network targeting users in partnering third-party apps. It sounds like another mobile ad network with the chief differentiator being the ability to leverage Facebook data – and it doesn’t seem to include programmatic capabilities.
Don’t get me wrong – the ad network model is still viable on the mobile front and Facebook’s entrance will certainly affect the market, but I’m in the frontiers game, as I hope AdMonsters’ OPS agenda shows. I’m thinking trajectories, and Facebook seems to be a late entrant into an already crowded space – in which many players are pushing toward the next frontiers. For publishers, FAN is just another fill source and I don’t know if the allure of Facebook data is enough to reel them in.
The most intriguing part of the Facebook announcement was its flexible mobile creative, including custom Facebook-style native units. Creative has long been the bane of mobile advertising as teensy weensy banners proved annoying to users and ineffective for advertisers.
But the industry has come a long way very fast: as I’ve explained elsewhere, video has the potential to be the champion of mobile revenue, particularly with the introduction of panel-based metrics that can connect measurements across screens. Publishers have long been building custom, high-performing units for mobile advertisers and technology providers have employed their HTML5 prowess to create and programmatically serve bold rich media units
Yes, programmatically – Nexage CMO Victor Milligan told me the other day that 30%-35% of the inventory flowing through the company’s mobile exchange is rich media- or video-enabled, and the next year he expect that to go over 50%.
That’s good news for publishers hyperventilating over their rising oceans of mobile inventory. Increased mobile video inventory helps guaranteed sales, but that demand is still limited. There seems to be a huge reach opportunity within RTB-fueled programmatic (open or private) that employs targeting by device ID (e.g., Apple’s IDFA), location and other mobile-specific methods. (Sure, privacy issues are lurking around the corner, but self-appointed privacy advocates are still concerned with battling the diminished third-party cookie.)
It’s creative that’s becoming the issue du jour. Technology companies like Nexage are responding by partnering up with rich media enablers such as Celtra to programmatically facilitate both standard and custom units at scale. I detailed ReactX’s efforts to bypass standards – by effectively making its technology the standard – in serving custom units through RTB. The piping is there or quickly being laid – there’s a dearth of creative, or rather smart creative fit for a smattering of devices.
In a recent column for Media Biz Bloggers, agency veteran Mike Drexler cataloged the factors squeezing the creative agency side and asked: “What if the full service media agency becomes the lead? What if media agencies start adding “creatives” to their organizations as employees or strategic partners?” Building off of that,Doug Weaver posited in The Drift that publishers can also take advantage of the creative squeeze by offering cutting-edge capabilities to their buyers (or even the advertisers behind the curtain). We’ve seen this a great deal in the native revolution – and of course native is considered a high-performing mobile ad product.
However, I think publishers are thinking even further down the line – straight into the multiscreen dream. Take The Weather Company: at OPS on June 10 in NYC, SVP of Monetization Alex Linde will detail how Weather’s mobile app rehaul actually encouraged a reconsideration of their ad products across screens. The mobile product is something along the standard bearer for every other channel.
As Drexler commented in his piece, “the digital world has also made media and creative almost inextricable.” A big part of OPS is exploring how digital media tech folk are taking larger, substantive roles in the creative process – and what that means in terms of the transaction process as well as internal organization. Mobile may be – and arguably already is – the screen where digital revenue strategists prove their capabilities surpass the management of ad networks. Now that’s exciting.