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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Facebook Takes Aim at Google’s Ad Tech Clout With LiveRail

Facebook FB +0.89% doesn’t just want media companies to publish content directlyto its platform. The social networking giant wants to handle every aspect of their digital advertising needs.
Facebook on Wednesday announced plans to take LiveRail–the Web video ad technology firm it acquired last year--and extend its capabilities to display and mobile advertising.
Known in the online ad world as a “supply side” platform, LiveRail was built to help publishers sell more video ads via multiple automated channels. Now, Facebook is extending LiveRail’s technology to display ads on desktop websites and ads that appear in mobile apps.
In effect, Facebook is now saying it can help media companies manage all of their ad inventory, and help them make more money along the way. That’s especially true in mobile, where it has a wealth of data about users that helps in ad-targeting.
Between LiveRail and Atlas, the ad serving platform that Facebook acquired in early 2013, Facebook is directly challenging Google GOOGL -0.37% in a bid to become the dominant back-end systems operator for digital advertising.
Other companies such as AOL and Adobe are also vying for that market, along with a slew of ad technology startups such as AppNexus, PubMatic and The Rubicon Project.
But the Google-Facebook battle is front-and-center. “This is Tyson-Holyfield,” said one Web publishing executive who has worked with both companies.
At its F8 developer conference today in San Francisco, Facebook plans to provide more details on the newly expanded LiveRail offering. At that event, Facebook is expected to tell publishers that they can use LiveRail to manage their direct ad buys as well as ad inventory sold through third parties.
LiveRail’s automated technology will help publishers pick which vehicles will provide a higher price at a given moment. The company has signed on Univision, A+E Networks and Dailymotion as initial partners.
In particular, Facebook is selling publishers on its mobile advertising prowess. In a blog post, Facebook product manager Mark Trefgarne said most consumers now spend 25% of their media time on mobile devices, but advertisers only spend 10% of their budgets on mobile ads, on average.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
“To expedite the shift in ad spend, mobile publishers need an advanced toolset that enables them to deliver results for advertisers, while minimizing wasted impressions and preserving user experience,” wrote Trefgarne. “Our new people-based targeting and mobile capabilities will help solve fundamental problems digital publishers face today.”
After its mobile product lagged behind for several years, Facebook got serious about mobile a few years ago and began to make major strides. Facebook now commands 17% of the U.S. mobile ad market, versus Google’s 35% share, reported eMarketer in December.
“Nobody else has people-based marketing in mobile,” said a media executive familiar with Facebook’s plans. “That’s a pretty strong proposition.”
Among Web publishers, there is often a debate about whether it is better to work with a slew of ad technology partners who specialize in one aspect of the business, or consolidate with one powerhouse firm like Google or Facebook. Publishers also compete with those companies for ad dollars.
“That brings up challenges with church and state,” said Will Margiloff, CEO of the marketing technology firm Ignition One
However, one executive at a major media company said he saw great benefit in working with a single partner that can connect as many different publishing platforms and systems as possible.
“There is always a tradeoff between somewhat relinquishing control and partnering,” this person said. “With Facebook, I don’t have to worry about stitching together lots of different pieces.”

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