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Facebook speaks language of big brands with behavioral targeting

In a significant advancement for its mobile advertising offerings, Facebook is giving marketers a way to target mobile ads based on the products and brands that users buy.

While behavioral targeting is popular in digital marketing to help marketers reach consumers who have expressed an interest in similar products or brands, it has not previously been available on Facebook. The move is likely to encourage big brands to take a closer look at advertising, and particular mobile advertising, more seriously.

?They are on a roll with world?s most popular platform and mobile,? said Roger Katz, CEO of Friend2Friend, Palo Alto, CA . ?Meanwhile they are adding all of these features and functionalities which happen to be a direct bull?s eye for what a lot of very traditional big brand advertisers want.

?Big brand advertisers are used to things like retargeting, ad exchanges ? so those kinds of offerings are really speaking their language and it is opening up the Facebook platform to the type of advertising that they have been somewhat familiar with online albeit in different form factors or ads units.

?In a way Facebook is helping bridge that gap between traditional online to social by providing a lot of the tools and targeting techniques, enhanced in many cases, but providing those in ad units that are optimized for the social environment and increasingly optimized for mobile.?

Where the audience is
The social network is hoping to help advertisers further drive results and deliver higher returns on their investment by enabling them to deliver targeted ads and provide a more relevant experience for users.

Previously, advertisers were able to show ads to people based on their expressed interests on Facebook. However, this was not enough to keep big brands coming back with General Motors pulling their advertising from Facebook a year ago.

Just this week, it was reported that GM is returning to Facebook with a mobile-only campaign in part because of the new targeting capabilities (see story).

?No advertiser can ignore that you need to be where the people are and increasingly the people are on mobile,? Mr. Katz said.

?GM is heavily focusing their advertising for Sonic to facebook mobile - well that is a lower-priced vehicle that is aimed at really young demographic,? he said. ?Those people are on Facebook and they are on mobile.?

Partner categories
Facebook is calling the new behavioral targeting capabilities ?partner categories.? It has teamed up with several big-name third party consumer data firms including Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon to support the strategy, which is available across desktop and mobile.

While partner categories will leverage consumer data from these companies, no personal information will be shared between Facebook, third parties or advertisers.

As with other targeting on Facebook, advertisers only know the size of the audience and are not able to access any information about individuals included in a category.

At launch, partner categories includes more than 500 unique groups.

For example, a local car dealership can now show ads to people who are likely in the market for a new car and who live near the dealership.

Partner categories work with other Facebook targeting options, so advertisers can further refine their campaigns.

?Increasingly, brands advertisers are trying to target the very users that are most likely to respond to their products and offers,? Mr. Katz said. ?With retargeting you are looking at users who have demonstrated a proclivity to a certain category or brand by their behavior and then what their likes and behaviors are on a platform like Facebook.

?So when you can bring all that together and use that as a way to target users, you are putting that ad in front of the right people which means you are not spending money to put it in front of the wrong people and you are going to more likely move the needle with that campaign,? he said.

?This is the language that big brand advertisers speak ? GM is spending billions of dollars with a lot of sophisticated analytics to try to understand their ROI. Where there is an opportunity to increase their return, they are going to start to direct more and more dollars to those areas.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York