POV: Facebook Audience Network

MINDSHARE POINT OF VIEW: Later this week, at its annual F8 conference, Facebook is expected to launch Facebook Audience Network (FAN). Facebook Audience Network is a way for the platform to massively extend its advertising inventory, specifically beyond just the Facebook platform. FAN is further proof that Facebook is expanding its reach into a portfolio of directly owned, or aggregated, mobile destinations, to become the world’s most powerful mobile media network.

Details & Implications

Advertisers will be able to buy advertising across a number of new mobile media platforms, using two different types of ad format. A standard drop-down mobile banner, that layers Facebook audience data into the targeting system, and a custom-built unit that is completely tailored to the environment that it’s placed in, and is likely to use a lot more of the contextual data that Facebook holds, such as location data, and interest-based data.

Facebook has been experimenting for the last two years with the drop-down mobile banner.  The custom-built unit represents a big step towards owning a lot more advertising across the Internet. A key audience is performance marketing focused clients, including app developers who already rely on Facebook and its successful App Install mobile advertising. FAN also marks an expansion of Facebook’s ad exchange, FBX, as it will allow advertisers to buy media from Facebook through its existing advertising platform.

However, Facebook is also chasing brand budgets. If you combine this latest announcement with the fact that the right-hand side advertising (which is usually used for performance purposes) is going to be expanded and given a more ‘newsfeed’ feel, you can see that Facebook is repositioning itself away from being primarily focused on performance advertising (where it competes directly with Google), and putting much more focus on brand-led advertising. With the majority of mobile advertising currently used to drive app installs and direct response-style briefs, this would massively open up the market for both Facebook and advertisers – and complete its transition to competing directly with television advertising.

Key to all of this is Facebook continuing to develop its suite of measurement tools. Over the last eighteen months it has become a lot more focused on demonstrating the ROI of its own advertising, but this will need to be accelerated and scaled up as it ventures more and more outside of the platform itself.

Ultimately, a key motivation for this move must be around gathering even more behavioural data on consumers, which can then be used to further provide advertisers deeper insights and targeting capabilities. For example, if Facebook is delivering advertising into the Yelp app, it will then also be able to gather data from how people interact with advertising on that app and recombine it with its existing massive data set to build a more comprehensive view of that person.

Obviously this is beneficial for both Facebook and advertisers alike. However, there's a third key stakeholder in this relationship that may not be so happy to see data used across the Internet and outside of Facebook; people. Facebook has had to tread a very thin line since it IPO’d, balancing out what’s good for users with what sells for advertisers. However, the key to making FAN a more attractive proposition than other mobile networks will be the unparalleled consumer data sets that Facebook is able to layer on top of its own unique user data.   


FAN marks a pivotal moment in Facebook’s development. Its aim is to create the Internet’s largest premium mobile media network, powered by Facebook’s deep consumer data , using new ad units to offer marketers hyper-target direct response and brand advertising.