November 6th, 2007

Facebook Rolls Out Highly Targeted Viral Ad System

By Terrence Russell
Wired

The wait (and hype) is finally over. After weeks of speculation and red herrings, Facebook’s new ad system (imaginatively titled “Facebook Ads"), has been revealed. So, what is it? Put simply, it’s an ad system that allows businesses to track users’ activities on the web (and on Facebook) to deliver product referrals and targeted advertising. If you’ve ever wanted to use social networking to share extraneous information about your purchases and product endorsements, your time has come.

At its core, Facebook Ads has three primary components (all of which launch tonight). The first is straight forward enough—businesses are now able to create Facebook profiles. Not much of a surprise here, but there’s a twist. Along with serving as a hub for the business’ brand, the profile can also serve as the spring board for viral apps (the second component). These can manifest themselves as anything from brand-stamped casual games, or even e-commerce apps that track purchases on partner websites.

The real kicker is the third component. It essentially collects the data from the first two components (keeping user info anonymous, of course) and provides it to a given business to assist in its targeted advertising objectives. For instance, a user who goes to Coke’s page and interacts with or installs its viral app ("Sprite Sips") can pretty much expect to become a shill—inserting all sorts of branding messages and endorsements into friends’ News Feeds.

So, what does this mean for Facebook users? For those that have wanted to use the site as the ultimate social networking/shopping hub, Facebook’s all-star list of participating partners shouldn’t disappoint. Blockbuster, CBS, Verizon, even Coca Cola— a lot the big guns are there. (Disclosure: Wired News is owned by CondeNet, one of the advertising partners in the deal.) For the rest of us, though? We suspect that Facebook Ads means more app spam ... lots and lots of product-pushing app spam.

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