Category Archives: Advertising Tech

Facebook finally monetizes Marketplace with ads from users and brands

20 months after launching its Craigslist competitor Marketplace and relentlessly promoting it with placement in the main navigation bar, Facebook will start earning money off its classifieds section. Facebook today begins testing Marketplace ads in the U.S. that let average users pay to “Boost” their listing to more people through the News Feed. While they’re easy for novices, requiring buyers to only to set a budget and how long the ads will run, there are no additional targeting options beyond being shown to age 18+ users in nearby zip codes.

Meanwhile, yesterday Facebook announced that it’s launching product ads from businesses that appear within Marketplace. After quietly opening in the U.S. in January and testing in Canada in May, Marketplace ads are now official, and can be bought in those two countries plus New Zealand and Australia. Businesses can extend their existing News Feed, video, Instagram, Messenger and other ad campaigns to Marketplace, and more types of objective-based campaigns will open to the classifieds section soon.

Facebook lets brands show ads within Marketplace

The Boost ads could be a big help if you need to rapidly liquidate your furniture before moving out, or if you’re trying to sell something big a high price, like Marketplace’s new car, housing, jobs, and home services offerings. Yet they seem inefficient, since the lack of targeting means your listing for men’s jewelry might show up to women, or your rock climbing gears ads could show up to senior citizens.

Facebook’s new Boost ads let average users pay to show their Marketplace listings to more people

But Facebook does tell me that ads will but auto-optimized for clicks, so when people start to click your ads, Facebook will show them to people of similar demographics. It will also immediately pause your ad campaign if you mark your item as sold. Boost ads get entered in alongside traditional bids in Facebook’s auction system which then display what it predicts will be the most appealing ads.

“Many Marketplace sellers have told us that they want the ability to show a listing to more people in their local area, especially if they’re trying to sell it quickly” Facebook Product Manager Harshit Agarwal tells TechCrunch. “We’re starting to test a simple way for sellers to boost their listings and help them find a buyer.” For comparison, Craiglist doesn’t run any ads, but charges sellers $5 to $10 for certain product listings cars and brokered apartments.

One interesting quirk is that Facebook says it won’t allow boosting of listings of political products such as a Bernie Sanders For President t-shirt, as its political advertiser verification and labeling system only works with Pages and not individuals right now.

The Boost ads will only appear to a small percentage of U.S. users and Facebook says it’s too early to know if it will roll them out futher. But as the company seems bent on swallowing up every other essential part of the internet, anything that makes Marketplace more useful to sellers and lucrative for the tech giant seems like a good bet for an official launch.

Together, the two formats could unlock new revenue streams for Facebook at a time when it’s starting to run out of ad inventory in the News Feed. The company either needs to open new surfaces like Marketplace to ads, or get people and businesses to pay more to fill its dwindling feed space if it wants to keep Wall Street happy.

Facebook introduces new bidding support for in-app ads

Facebook is expanding its support for header bidding, a technology that allows publishers to auction off ad impressions through real-time bidding between ad networks.

The company announced its support for header bidding on the mobile web last year. Today, it’s adding something similar for in-app advertising.

That means app publishers who use header bidding can include ads from Facebook’s Audience Network in their auctions. To enable this, Facebook is partnering with Fyber, MAX and Twitter’s MoPub.

Here’s how Facebook’s Vijay Balan laid out the benefits of the new approach:

Currently, ad networks are called one-by-one until an app ad is filled, determined by historical average CPMs rather than which buyer is willing to pay the most. This method often overlooks a network willing to pay more for an impression because it is lower in the chain.

App bidding enables app publishers and developers to establish an impartial and open auction over their ad inventory. All advertising networks are called simultaneously and the highest bidder for the placement wins, thereby providing publishers with opportunities to earn more. Publishers can maximize their access to high value advertisers, fueling the creation of sustainable ad businesses that help ensure people continue to enjoy access to high quality free content.

Balan said Facebook has already been testing this with publishers who have their own ad-serving technology, including Rovio, Talefun and GameInsight. Those early tests have seen revenue gains of up to 20 percent.

Washington sues Facebook and Google over failure to disclose political ad spending

Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information — such as the advertiser’s address — as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state’s attorney general.

Washington law requires that “political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided.”

Specifically, “documents and books of account” must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment, and description services rendered.

Bob Ferguson, Washington’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that both Facebook and Google “failed to obtain and maintain” this information. Earlier this year, Eli Sanders of Seattle’s esteemed biweekly paper The Stranger requested to view the “books of account” from both companies, and another person followed up with an in-person visit; both received unsatisfactory results.

They alerted the AG’s office to these investigations in mid-April, and here we are a month and a half later with a pair of remarkably concise lawsuits. (This appears to be separate from the Seattle Election Commission’s allegations of similar failings by Facebook in February.)

All told Facebook took in about $3.4 million over the last decade, including “$2.5 million paid through political consultants and other agents or intermediaries, and $619,861 paid directly to Facebook.” Google received about $1.5 million over the same period, almost none of which was paid directly to the company. (I’ve asked the AG’s office for more information on how these amounts are defined.)

The total yearly amounts listed in the lawsuits may be interesting to anyone curious about the scale of political payments to online platforms at the state scale, so I’m reproducing them here.

Facebook

  • 2013: $129,099
  • 2014: $310,165
  • 2015: $147,689
  • 2016: $1,153,688
  • 2017: $857,893

Google

  • 2013: $47,431
  • 2014: $72,803
  • 2015: $56,639
  • 2016: $310,175
  • 2017: $295,473

(Note that these don’t add up to the totals mentioned above; these are the numbers filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Committee. 2018 amounts are listed but are necessarily incomplete, so I omitted them.)

At least some of the many payments making up these results are not properly documented, and from the looks of it, this could amount to willful negligence. If a company is operating in a state and taking millions for political ads, it really can’t be unaware of that state’s disclosure laws. Yet according to the lawsuits, even basic data like names and addresses of advertisers and the amounts paid were not collected systematically, let alone made available publicly.

It’s impossible to characterize flouting the law in such a way as an innocent mistake, and certainly not when the mistake is repeated year after year. This isn’t an academic question: if the companies are found to have intentionally violated the law, the lawsuit asks that damages be tripled (technically, “trebled.”)

Neither company addressed the claims of the lawsuit directly when contacted for comment.

Facebook said in a statement that “Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly.” The company also noted that it has taken several steps to improve transparency in political spending, such as its planned political ad archive and an API for requesting this type of data.

Google said only that it is “currently reviewing the complaint and will be engaging with the Attorney General’s office” and asserted that it is “committed” to transparency and disclosure, although evidently not in the manner Washington requires.

The case likely will not result in significant monetary penalties for the companies in question; even if fines and damages totaled tens of millions it would be a drop in the bucket for the tech giants. But deliberately skirting laws governing political spending and public disclosure is rather a bad look for companies under especial scrutiny for systematic dishonesty — primarily Facebook.

If the AG’s suit goes forward and the companies are found to have intentionally avoided doing what the law required, they (and others like them) would be under serious pressure to do so in the future, not just in Washington, but in other states where similar negligence may have taken place. AG Ferguson seems clearly to want to set a precedent and perhaps inspire others to take action.

I’ve asked the AG’s office for some clarifications and additional info, and will update this post if I hear back.

Rebel launches new tools for developers to build marketing emails

Until now, Rebel has been known as a platform allowing marketers to incorporate interactive elements into their emails. Today, it’s launching a new version of its API that will allow developers to build entire emails, interactive or not.

Co-founder Joe Teplow explained that the new Rebel Lite API was created in response to developers who were already using the company’s API.

“Our customers loved being able to build these actionable modules in bite-sized chunks with our API,” Teplow said. In fact, they loved it enough that they started asking, “Could we build the entire email with your API?”

So with the Rebel Lite API, Teplow said they can create emails using JSON, “without writing one line of HTML.”

And yes, this is a tool built specifically for developers, not a drag-and-drop email editor for marketers. Teplow said that as the industry has become more complex, “Email as a channel requires a really tight integration between marketers and developers.”

But what’s so hard about sending an email? Kevin Dutra, who leads Rebel’s product team, explained, “The main problem in email market fragmentation on the rendering side.”

In other words, Dutra said it takes extensive testing to make sure your email shows up properly on every device and email client, turning the creation of email into a full-time job. Rebel, on the other hand, is constantly keeping track of changes in email rendering, so if you build an email using the API you can take advantage of all that work to know that your code is up-to-date and that your emails will render properly.

In addition, Rebel has created a number of reusable components to enable the creation of complex layouts.

Teplow added that the new API could also help Rebel reach a new audience — not just large enterprises, but also “regular developers at a smaller company.”

“They weren’t a fit for Rebel before, but we’re slowly starting to let those people in,” he said.

Pandora raises its social media game with AMPcast, DIY audio messaging for artists

pandora While Spotify is acquiring startups expand its messaging and social features, Pandora is also raising its game in the artist-to-fan communications sphere for musicians to better target Pandora’s 80 million users. Today, the music streaming company is launching a service called AMPcast — a service to let musicians “speak to their fans” by way of audio messages… Read More

Marketing Tech’s Bumpy Road: Consolidation, Growth And A New Frontier

roughroad Marketing technology has become big business over the last five years, securing $134 billion in venture funding and spawning more than 2,000 new companies. New channels, new data streams and new workflow have emerged to disrupt important aspects of marketing at big and small companies alike. And CMOs are buying — roughly $23 billion in 2015, according to IDC, and likely growing to… Read More

Outdoor Advertising Is The New Black

billboardpark Big cities like San Francisco and New York are digital meccas, home to many of the world’s largest technology startups — and to hordes of smartphone-toting, app-using consumers. But when it comes to making a name for themselves, many of the companies hoping to influence these techie urbanites are going decidedly analog. In these cities, and others, it’s hard to miss the… Read More

Google Brings Its App Streaming Technology To Mobile Ads

mobile internet Last month, Google introduced a new way for web searchers to find the information they want – even when that content was locked inside a mobile application. The search engine would now return results for in-app content, and offer you the ability to “stream” the app from the web to your phone, if you didn’t already have it installed on your device. Today, Google is… Read More

BrightFunnel Raises $6M To Connect Marketing And Revenue

brightfunnel BrightFunnel announced today that it has raised $6 million in Series A funding. The startup offers attribution tools to track the sales impact of customers’ marketing efforts, and it also predicts the future impact of upcoming campaigns. CEO Nadim Hossain said this data is particularly important as “marketing is eating sales.” In other words, marketing was traditionally the… Read More

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