As part of his questions to analysts at last weeks Facebook Q1 2013 earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg focused heavily on one theme: Facebook’s new Big Data capabilities.
For years the Facebook advertising play has been simple: take a subset of the 1 billion odd users and send advertising directly to them. However, for marketers to remain interested even more specific targeting is required
Here are some of Facebook’s new big data offerings
Launched new advertising products such as Lookalike Audiences, Managed Custom Audiences, and Partner Categories, which help marketers improve their targeting capabilities on Facebook.
Partnered with Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai to enable marketers to incorporate off Facebook purchasing data in order to deliver more relevant ads to users.
Enhanced ability to measure advertiser ROI on digital media across the internet through our acquisition of the Atlas Advertising Suite.
The first two points underplay what Facebook is up to. Most people have no idea what Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom and Bluekai actually do. Insiders, however, know that Facebook alliances with these companies give it one of the most powerful consumer databases on the planet.
Epsilon has data on 300 million company loyalty card members worldwide, and a data-bank on 250 million consumers in the U.S.
Acxiom has “a comprehensive national database covering more than 126 million households and 190 million individuals.”
Datalogix says, “Our database contains more than $1 trillion in offline purchase-based data and we’re able to covert this data, and any CRM data, into an online universe.”
The data stored in these companies tends to be anonymized or “hashed.” They are not able to identify Jane Smith, shoe-shopper from Montclair, N.J., as an individual. But they are able to identify thousands of Janes who shop for shoes in any zip code you want, in aggregate.
All this is now paired with Facebook’s own data — profiles of 1 billion-plus users who are all happily documenting the minutiae of their lives, and their shopping, on Facebook.
These partnerships are great but the real meat in the Facebook plan is yet to even begin. Atlas is a gigantic internet ad server, previously owned by Microsoft. It’s like the plumbing of the web: It serves up ads all over the web and takes a cut from any advertiser using its services. Atlas carries between 10% and 15% of all ads for buyers on the web, according to LeadLedger. It is second in size only to Google’s DoubleClick ad server.
Most people have yet to digest that fact: Facebook is now the second biggest web ad server to Google. The deal closed recently, and Facebook has yet to report the revenue impact of Atlas in its own numbers.
A lot of people assumed that Facebook bought Atlas because it wanted to create an off-Facebook ad network, maybe one in which Facebook data could be used to enhance targeting through Atlas. But that’s not the primary goal for Atlas. Facebook has been quite clear about why it acquired Atlas from Microsoft: It wants the data Atlas can provide.
Ultimately Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be able to tell advertisers how their ads perform even when consumers are offline, and haven’t been anywhere near Facebook prior to going shopping:
In the conference call he was quoted as saying: “We believe the Atlas platform will help us demonstrate even more clearly the connection between ad impressions and purchases. We could help marketers measure the effectiveness of their ad impressions better not just on Facebook, but across the entire internet.”
Most ordinary Facebook users don’t realise how ambitious these plans are. If you bought something with a credit or debit card in the last couple of years, you’re probably in Facebook’s data pool right now.
As advertising technologists we can’t help but be excited and scared as human beings how much Facebook and Google know about us!