By letting marketers reach its users even when they aren’t on Facebook, the social network has helped retailers like Walgreen Co. significantly increase click-through rates on ads.

Facebook Inc.’s mobile ad network, which it calls Audience Network, is open for business for marketers around the world. The mobile ad network was previously available to select U.S. advertisers.

The social network today announced that its 1.5 million advertisers can now use Audience Network to target their Facebook ads to consumers off of the social network with a single click.  When a marketer creates an ad on the social network, Facebook’s ad-creation tool will note whether the ad is a format that can be disseminated via the Audience Network. Marketers can place three types of ads using the mobile ad network—banner, interstitial and native ads.

Marketers don’t have to adjust their campaigns to place ads on mobile apps using the Audience Network because the mobile ad network uses the same targeting and measurement features that marketers use for Facebook ads, as well as the same imagery.

“The Audience Network shows people the right ads by extending Facebook’s targeting to third-party apps,” writes Tanya Chen, a Facebook software engineer, in a blog post. “This means the ads match the interests of people, just as they do on Facebook. It also means people are more likely to engage with the ads.”

Some retailers say the Audience Network, which Facebook launched at its F8 developer conference in April, is already producing significant results. For example, Walgreen Co., No. 43 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, says that the click-through rate for mobile ads presented via the Audience Network were four to five times better than other mobile ads.

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“With the expansion of the Audience Network, advertisers are getting what they had been hoping for: the ability to use rich social media user data to reach consumers not only on Facebook, but on other mobile apps and services as well,” says Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst, eMarketer.

The social network aims for the mobile ad network to extend Facebook’s advertising reach across the mobile web. And consumers are spending more and more time with mobile apps; mobile apps account for 88% of the time consumers spend on smartphones and 82% of the time they spend on tablets, according to a recent report by web measurement firm comScore Inc. At the same time, by placing ads based on the massive trove of information it knows about its users on mobile apps, the Audience Network will let Facebook earn incremental ad dollars without further cluttering up users’ news feeds with ads.

Facebook is seeking to capitalize on digital advertising’s shift to mobile. Mobile ad spending will grow 83% this year, according to digital marketing research firm eMarketer Inc. and will account for nearly 35% of total digital ad spending, up from 22.5% last year. By 2016, mobile ad spending will surpass desktop ad spending, eMarketer projects.

The social network is already in a strong position when comes to mobile advertising. The research firm says that Facebook accounted for 16.5% of worldwide mobile ad revenue last year—14.7% in the United States—and eMarketer expects that percentage to jump to 20.4% this year—17.9% in the United States.

But Facebook faces stiff competition. The Audience Network competes with similar mobile ad networks owned by some of the largest online players—Google Inc., Twitter Inc., Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc.—along with a slew of other smaller companies and startups that each offer their own unique positioning to let marketers target consumers on mobile devices either on mobile web sites or in apps. Google alone accounted for 46.4% of worldwide mobile ad revenue last year, a percentage that will dip slightly to 44.6%, according to eMarketer.

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In related news, Facebook today also launched a new ad unit, called Local Awareness ads, that let marketers target consumers based on their proximity, or recent proximity, to a business’s address or a specific area targeted by the advertiser. The ad unit, which is aimed at local businesses, will roll out to U.S. advertisers in the next few weeks to international marketers in the next few months.

Read more about Audience Network and other mobile ad networks, as well as the challenges some retailers have faced using them, in “Where the eyeballs are” in the October issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for a free subscription to Internet Retailer magazine.

 

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