Ads don’t get more contextual than this

23 08 2007

The Wall Street Journal today reports on plans under development by social network Facebook to launch ads based on information revealed on the site by its users.

While the article states that the plan is currently at an early stage, it has become the company’s # 1 priority, with an initial rollout as early as autumn, presumably in reaction to Google beefing up its own designs on monetising YouTube.

The new service would let advertisers visit a Web site to choose a much wider array of characteristics for the users who should see their ads — based not only on age, gender and location, but also on details such as favorite activities and preferred music, says the WSJ. Facebook would use its technology to point the ads to the selected groups of people without exposing their personal information to the advertisers.

The report continues, next year, Facebook hopes to expand on the service, one person says, using algorithms to learn how receptive a person might be to an ad based on readily available information about activities and interests of not just a user but also his friends — even if the user hasn’t explicitly expressed interest in a given topic. Facebook could then target ads accordingly.

Most potently of all: Facebook’s plan, if it works, could be potentially powerful for advertisers. While Google’s keyword-targeted ads aim at “demand fulfillment” — that is, they are triggered by Internet searches conducted by people who are actively looking for something that they want — Facebook’s new ad plan could help advertisers address an area called “demand generation.” This involves using available information — not just from a user but also the activities and interests of his “friends” on the site — to figure out what people might want before they’ve specifically mentioned it.

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