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Has Facebook?s mobile advertising influence reached parity with Google?

Already influential in mobile advertising, Facebook yesterday threw down the gauntlet to Google when it finally made its highly-anticipated mobile ad network official with promises of providing the best ad targeting available in mobile.

Brands such as Coca-Cola and Disney are already testing the mobile ad network, which was announced yesterday during the social network?s f8 developer conference in San Francisco. The Facebook Audience Network is intended to make it easy for developers and publishers to sell a variety of ad formats on mobile.

?Facebook?s Audience Network places Facebook on the same playing field as Google in terms of its influence, reach and relevance to advertisers,? said David Serfaty, director of social advertising at Matomy Media Group. ?It offers Facebook advertisers more opportunities to target consumers based on their demographic, interest or behavioral data.

?Facebook has already made impressive inroads with its ad-targeting capabilities," he said. "Its mobile ad network will expand those capabilities by giving advertisers the ability to reach more Facebook users more often with native in-app ad types.

?Time will tell whether Facebook?s mobile ad network becomes as big of a success as Google?s vaunted AdWords ad network. Facebook?s mobile ad network may prove to be an even more influential business factor for the company, considering CEO Mark Zuckerberg?s insistence that the company is now ?a mobile-first? business. If that is indeed true, marketers will be wise to begin testing campaigns on the Facebook mobile ad network as soon as possible.?

Beating the competition
With a mobile ad network from Facebook having the potential for significant extended reach into mobile consumers, early adopters are likely to be to marketers who already driving adoption of mobile app install ads on Facebook.

Industries with the biggest presence on Facebook from an advertising standpoint include gaming, entertainment, technology, travel and retail, many of whom have been clamoring for mobile advertising options with Facebook.

Additionally, any advertisers already focused on mobile display are likely to take advantage of the new channel.

Ad choices on Facebook's ad network

However, its success will depend on Facebook?s ability to develop a robust set of reporting and targeting solutions for marketers.

?A Facebook mobile ad network has tremendous potential, but there are many entrenched competitors,? said Todd Herrold, San Francisco-based senior director, of product marketing, Kenshoo.

?This could be very significant for marketers if Facebook is successful bringing in app developers and other publishers for distribution of its ads,? he said. ?Facebook mobile app install ads have proven to be highly effective at driving ROI and to extend this successful ad unit into other apps is likely to be successful as well.

?This brings new audiences of mobile app users who are likely to download an interesting looking app. Facebook will have to develop additional reporting and targeting capabilities to avoid confusion, much like with the Google Display Network which enables advertisers to target or exclude specific sites (apps) and report on the results of each property separately.?

Native ads
While Facebook?s ad network will support a variety of ad formats such as banners and interstitials, the company is encouraging publishers and developers to work with the company to develop native ad units that have been customized for specific apps and publishers, emphasizing that format matters in mobile.

A significant point of differentiation for Facebook in the ad network space could be the significant amount of information the company has about its users, which could help marketers better target their ads.

?As an early adopter of Facebook?s mobile ad product, we have experienced rapid growth with mobile both inside and outside of politics,? said Michael Beach, cofounder of Targeted Victory, a digital platform for political campaigns.

?Facebook has been an early partner in our targeting efforts, and we?re excited to see what comes of the Facebook Audience Network,? he said. ?With FAN, advertisers are getting access to a big missing piece of the puzzle.?

Monetizing apps
During Facebook?s conference call last week with analysts to discuss its financial results, the company suggested that it is still very much early days for the ad network, which is not expected to have a material impact on advertising revenue before next year.

?For marketers it brings more creditability to mobile advertising in addition to greater reach among mobile users,? said Jay Hawkinson, Chicago-based senior vice president of emerging products at SIM Partners.

?This is definitely an opportunity especially as way to help developers monetize existing mobile apps,? he said. ?The challenges come with the channel and really thinking mobile first when crafting campaigns for this network.?

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