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Facebook Tests Real-Time Ads



It’s been cold and rainy here in Southern California. I sure could use some soup for lunch!

If I was part of Facebook’s new test group, the next ad I’d see shortly after posting that status update might be the one you see here. And by shortly, I don’t mean later that day, but within seconds.

The test Facebook is conducting is to see if they can deliver targeted ads in real-time based on wall posts and status updates. Right now, ads are targeted based on a number of criteria including posts, interests and other information in a person’s profile. But those ads, relevant though they may be (and they aren’t always relevant) take time to show up on site.

With the current set-up, that soup ad could show up four days after I express my interest in soup and by then we could have gone from parkas to bathing suits here in the OC. Let’s face it, we’re a fickle audience, prone to impulse buying when something is new and exciting. If advertisers can tap into that instant gratification reflex, then they’ve got a better chance of selling you an item you probably won’t want a week from now.

The only downside here is, as usual, one of customer privacy. People don’t like the idea of their wall posts being read by strangers, even if they are posting in a public space. People who notice that their ads have suddenly become very targeted, to the creepy degree, may balk at the intrusion. It probably won’t stop them from clicking on something they like, but they’ll complain anyway.

A few marketers have expressed concerns about ads showing up that haven’t been properly vetted. For example, can the system tell the difference between a positive and negative update? If I say, I just got seasick on a cruise, will I get served ads for a boat trip around the world? The bigger question — does it matter?

What’s the worst that could happen if an ad is badly targeted? The user won’t click. That’s not helpful to the advertiser but it’s not a Groupon ad about Tibet, right?

Anything that helps put a relevant ad in front of potential consumer while that item is on their mind, can’t be anything but helpful for marketers. So go, Facebook, go.