The modern wonder of data-driven digital advertising has already mastered the art of following users across multiple web sites with the same ads. And a new system opening up today from Facebook means advertisers can use data from the social network to follow the same crowd of potential customers across a new dimension: their various mobile apps.
The company today said it will open up its tool for selling ads in apps beyond Facebook to all its advertisers. That means any of the company's more than 1.5 million advertisers can now hit the same targeted users across all the apps that deliver ads through Facebook's network. The social network has been running trial of the system since announcing it earlier this year, but only a small base of advertisers were part of the test period.
And that's for good reason: on any given day, there are between 11 million and 12 million active ads on Facebook, as BuzzFeed News had earlier detailed. Facebook's job is to narrow this giant base down to the ten or so that best target a specific user, and insert them at the right spot in their News Feed.
The challenge is the same for users on other apps, the company's product manager for Facebook Audience Network Sriram Krishnan told BuzzFeed News in an interview.
"We take all the technology around ranking and personalization and we extend that from the Facebook app to third-party apps," he said. "We spent a lot of time working on that, and we can bring it to any developer, and they haven't had access."
When a user installs the Facebook app, the company connects a unique device identifier to their Facebook account. And whenever that user opens an app that uses Facebook's ad network, Facebook will serve up an ad based on what it knows about the them. Facebook does not share any personally identifying information other than the ad itself, the company said.
The company's goal with the Audience Network is also to deliver "native" advertisements that look normal pieces of content in any given application. Krishnan referred to Shazam as an example app that employs Facebook Audience Network to deliver native ads, as show in the screenshot above.
"If you look at [an ad] on the Facebook News Feed, they look like a core part of News Feed — they're rich and visual," he said. "We think every publisher should be able to do that."
With the opening of Facebook's Audience Network, the company now has two tools to use its own targeting data to serve ads on third-party applications. The company re-launched its Atlas ad platform last week, allowing any advertiser not running campaigns on Facebook to use Facebook data for targeting. The difference between the two is, in short, that the Facebook Audience Network is used for campaigns that are also running ads on Facebook.
Building these products allows the company to reach users even in the brief moments when they're not staring at Facebook. It means the company can keep growing its mobile advertising revenue, which now represents more than 60% of of all the money it makes from ads, even as growth in usage of its apps inevitably tapers off. Booming mobile ad revenues are a core reason why the company's stock price continues to rise, giving the companty a market valuation of more than $200 billion -- higher even than corporate icons like Coca-Cola and IBM.