Well, that was fast. Six weeks after making some News Feed ad inventory biddable to Facebook Exchange advertisers on a trial basis, Facebook is expanding the amount of that precious paid media space that it will expose to RTB demand.
The News Feed trial was initially open to just three of Facebook's 17 FBX partners. Those early beta partners were MediaMath, TellApart and Nanigans. With the new expansion (still in beta), marketers now have the option to work with the other 14.
Facebook didn't immediately say how much total News Feed inventory it would float on its ad exchange, or how much News Feed space it intends to preserve for its native social advertising products. But one thing is sure: the new FBX placements perform better than the right rail ads to which they were previously confined.
As TellApart CEO Josh McFarland told AdExchanger when the beta launched in March, "Getting in the News Feed is like getting on anyone's personalized NYT front page."
Facebook also signaled plans to enhance dynamic creative optimization of FBX campaigns. Its blog post notes, "We are working on integrating FBX real-time dynamic creative functionality (highly-customized and/or optimized ad creatives that allow on-the-fly creative modification) for the Link Page Post Ad Format." Link Page Post Ads are Facebook ads that drive users to off-site landing pages.
FBX advertisers can already use product-specific creative. In a protocol document dealing with dynamic creative, Facebook explains, "The FBX partner is allowed to override one, some, or all the fields on an adgroup (image, title, body, link URL). The information is passed via special fields in the bid response, and is subject to the same length limitations as regular ad copy."
Essentially, Facebook is acknowledging advertiser demand to inject even more creative variables in a bid response than is possible today. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for more details on its creative optimization plans.
The News Feed expansion, coming so quickly on the heels of the beta, suggests Facebook's exchange has substantially improved its ad yield. It also poses a challenge to social agencies and others for whom the News Feed has been a protected zone. Whereas FBX vendors have, until now, competed mainly with Preferred Marketing Developers plugged into Facebook's Ads API (i.e. ad buying platforms), going forward vendors will bid against campaigns run by the likes of Spring Creek Group, 360i and Deep Focus. These players can no longer breathe easy knowing retargeting demand is confined to the right rail.
Finally, the move could be a stepping stone to FBX ads in mobile, since News Feed ads are Facebook's predominant mobile ad type. Should it flip the switch on FBX News Feed ads in its mobile apps, Facebook could substantially ratchet up the programmatic mobile inventory pool. Not only that, it could overcome the targeting hurdles that exist today in the mobile space (Facebook can identify logged-in desktop users on their mobile device, essentially supporting desktop cookie matching to a mobile device).
For now Facebook is cool to this idea. As a spokesperson told us in March, "Desktop is more in line with what FBX has been doing effectively in the right-hand side. And we also find that desktop is the place where more people convert from seeing direct-response ads."