In Larger Bid For Audience Selling, Facebook Adds Data From BlueKai And Others

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fb-custom-expandFacebook is ramping up the volume of outside data marketers can apply to their audience targeting campaigns on the site.

It confirmed it will extend its Custom Audiences tool, begun in partnership with Datalogix back in September, to three new partners in the CRM matching arena. Epsilon and Acxiom will bring their first and third party data targeting capabilities, allowing ad buyers to identify existing customers and qualified prospects on the Facebook platform. AdAge first reported on that move last week.

Facebook will also offer third party first party online data via a partnership with BlueKai. (Read the announcement) [Update: Facebook says it won't support third party data from BlueKai. It's the only of the four partners to be restricted to providing only first party data sources.]

Marketers have two options for identifying Facebook audiences using these new data sources. First, they can leverage existing relationships with outside data firms by importing audience segments they may previously have used to identify shoppers on other websites. Or they can go through Facebook directly to leverage pre-defined segments, for instance "frequent cruise travelers" or "mortgage shoppers." The latter option may be more appropriate to small to mid-sized ad buyers without existing relationships with data companies.

Bringing first and third party data aggregators into the fold is only the latest in a series of steps Facebook has taken to recreate innovations in online advertising from the past decade. Those explorations have included display ad formats, retargeting (through the Facebook Exchange), lookalike modeling, and database matching through the Custom Audiences program. Custom audiences, sometimes treated by the business press as a dramatic evolution, has actually been employed online for at least the last ten years (first on AOL, later on Yahoo and other sites). It has not yet cracked the search nut, but appears intent on doing so through its Graph Search product. Another stone still unturned is video advertising, but a recent analyst report published by AllThingsD suggests it may be on the verge of doing so.

The program expansion rolls out next week with select partners in the U.S. All Facebook ad types are available according to a representative, including right nav ads and placements in the news feed.

Facebook shared results two marketers have seen during the first six months of the Custom Audiences program. It said Chicago car dealer Castle Auto Group saw a 24x return on ad spend by combining Facebook Offers ads with in-house car leads using CRM matching cpapability. Hong Kong game developer KingNet meanwhile saw a 40% decrease in cost-per-install for one of its games.

As usual with its data-enhanced ad products, Facebook is going out of its way to emphasize the privacy protections. In a post on its Facebook and Privacy page, it emphasizes user profiles are hashed both on its own and the data provider's end, resulting in anonymous audience clusters associated with no personally identifiable information.

Facebook users who hover over ads targeted using data from third party providers will be notified what is happening. And Facebook plans to provide opt-out links to all four partners.

Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock.com

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