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What’s the deal?

Facebook ads work because when done right, they’re personal, relevant and easy to measure. The Audience Network brings those same features to other app and mobile website experiences, providing marketers with even more scalability for their regular Facebook campaigns. The Audience Network is essentially a collection of mobile apps where Facebook advertisers can serve ads using the same targeting and measurement tools that they use on Facebook.

The Audience network is for third party (non-Facebook) websites and apps where marketers place ads, using the same Facebook ad formats and interface. These ads are notoriously inexpensive because they can end up on any number of websites or apps, without the advertiser having any visibility into which ones. Facebook’s Audience Network is a new way for advertisers to extend their campaigns beyond Facebook and into other mobile apps.

Category Blocking

This new feature gives you the ability to block ad placements on websites which are categorized to have specific content that could potentially tarnish your brand. The current categories include: gambling, politics, religion, and dating. If you want to be more specific, you can also upload a list of URLs from which you know you do not want your users coming from. You can read the full announcement here.

Why does this matter?

Sure, we’ve been able to do this on the GDN and other Display Networks for a few years now. So, this might seem like a small feature to add, but the signal it sends digital marketers is not. Since the beginning, they’ve continued pushing against Google for dominance in this space. Since the removal of Facebook Ad Exchange, it has been more difficult for outside ad exchanges/ display vendors to leverage Facebook. Facebook is squeezing them out of the game. The addition of Instagram placement as part of Facebook’s media buying workflow is part of their overall strategy to have all buyers do everything through the Facebook interface, one could argue.

Facebook’s success has come as a bit of a surprise – many research firms published reports forecasting that Google would stay in the lead. Take a look at the reversal from eMarketer’s predictions on Facebook vs. Google display ad revenue in 2013 vs. 2015:

2013:

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2015:

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Facebook is gaining ground in the display game

Once Facebook gains the reach (scale/size) they need with Audience Network, they’ll have an extremely tempting, one-stop advertising solution for display/social marketers of all stripes. Facebook does not need to rely on browser cookies to identify user demographics and interests, they  already have vast sets of information profiles on hand from their audiences who log in daily. That means they can connect across devices (mobile web, app, and desktop) and have deeper insights into the impact of advertising on the online purchasing behavior of consumers. Facebook’s interface also makes it easy to buy media across various types of placement formats – Instagram, Facebook Newsfeed, and Audience Network ads are possible for the same campaign within the same workflow by simply checking a box.

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Various placement formats are available for the same campaign – just by ticking off the box

Other thoughts

It will be interesting to see if Facebook will start making Audience Network placements visible, letting you comb through your placements and add or delete them as needed.

This will likely drive up the cost of Audience Network placements, as more visibility and control means better quality placements and increased competition. Native Facebook and Instagram placements are still the most expensive, but Audience Network’s prices are likely to rise.

Several weeks back we began discussions with a potential client around display media management.  We spoke at length about buying channels, assorted DSPs, and ad serving platforms.  Amidst these talks it became apparent that our client faced a particular hurdle that opened our eyes to an existing (though seemingly small) pitfall within the industry.  A large percentage of their inbound traffic was attributable to Safari browsers.  At first glance we didn’t think twice about any marketing implications.  Let’s run programmatic display! Let’s retarget!

But then the familiar reality came roaring in: Safari browsers have been blocking 3rd party cookies by default for years.  As an analytics-fed organization, this limits our ability to provide full insight into the performance of these campaigns quite dramatically.

There has been plenty written about the subject, and a lot of the hoopla surged with Mozilla’s threat of blocking 3rd party cookies by default as well:

I understand arguments made both for and against the default blocking of cookies. Users are entitled to their privacy, but default blocking will also harm much of the customization and refinement of advertising that they enable.  Would you rather be bombarded with unrelated, ‘reach-everyone’ ad copy, or custom-tailored offers that relate to products you recently researched?  Do you want data circulating about your browsing habits altogether?

The reality is that the industry hinges heavily upon the utilization of this information, and innovation continues to push forward, regardless of whether or not we like it. What Mozilla’s threat (and subsequent pull-back) really did was allow us to play out the ‘what happens if this happens across the board?’ scenarios.  What if EVERY browser blocks 3rd party cookies by default?  But as mentioned earlier, many are talking about it, and the reality is that not many platforms, vendors, and service providers are doing much to solve for it.

So what’s a marketer to do?

This is what drove us further into the existing peculiarities of the ecosystem.  Who has a solution?  What are the workarounds?  This series will explore strategizing for, and executing marketing initiatives in a cookieless world.  We’ll discuss 1st party ad-serving technology from providers like Flashtalking and Trueffect, opt-in capabilities of retargeting firms like Criteo, alternative data matching methods that are moving beyond cookies altogether, data security, accuracy, and the renewed emphasis upon direct publisher relationships.  Additionally, we’ll point out where the market is potentially lacking audience targeting options in absence the almighty cookie.

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Facebook Audience Network Category Blocking- Cardinal Path POV

Cardinal Path Point of View: Ad Blocking

What’s the deal? Facebook ads work because when done right, they’re personal, relevant and easy to measure. The Audience Network brings those same features to other app and mobile website experiences, providing marketers with even more scalability for their regular Facebook campaigns. The Audience Network is essentially a collection of mobile apps where Facebook advertisers … Read Full Post

Series: Digital Marketing Strategy In A ‘Cookieless’ Landscape

Cardinal Path blog post

Several weeks back we began discussions with a potential client around display media management.  We spoke at length about buying channels, assorted DSPs, and ad serving platforms.  Amidst these talks it became apparent that our client faced a particular hurdle that opened our eyes to an existing (though seemingly small) pitfall within the industry.  A … Read Full Post

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