Facebook resumes mobile ad trials in third-party iOS, Android apps

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Nine months after Facebook (NASDAQ:FBslammed the brakes on external mobile advertising trials, the social networking giant has revived the initiative in an effort to bolster its mobile revenue stream.

In mid-September 2012, Facebook began testing in-app banner and interstitial ads directing consumers to mobile sites or app stores based on their social media profile and activities. Reports indicated Facebook synced its anonymous user IDs with several mobile ad exchanges--when a Facebook user visited an app or site where an exchange partner had placements, the exchange instantly transmitted the user ID back to Facebook to determine whether an advertiser had bid on inventory targeting the consumer's particular demographic profile. If so, Facebook paid the ad exchange some portion of the bid, and the ad was displayed to the user.

Facebook wound down the test in late December, but is now resuscitating the project. "We're currently running a second test to show Facebook ads off Facebook in mobile apps and on mobile sites," the company said Thursday in an emailed statement. "Our goal is to improve both targeting and relevancy of the ads people see. Since this is a test, we don't have additional details to share."

Facebook now boasts 819 million mobile active users, increasing 51 percent over the second quarter of 2012. Mobile daily active users exceed 469 million. According to a recent eMarketer forecast, Facebook will surge from 5.35 percent global mobile ad share in 2012 to 15.8 percent this year, trailing only Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) at 53.2 percent. Last month, the social network announced that mobile ads now generate 41 percent of its total revenues, up from 30 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The resumption of third-party ad network trials is the latest in a series of recent moves intended to expand Facebook's mobile ad ambitions. Earlier this month, the company introduced automatic video playback features into users' mobile News Feed. While the service initially supports videos from individuals (personal Facebook accounts or verified Pages) and musicians, Facebook has said it plans to add mobile video-based advertising efforts sometime in the future.

Last week, Facebook also launched Telco Outcome Measurement, a new tool to help operators and service providers reconcile in-store sales with ad impressions delivered across the social media platform. Telco Outcome Management leverages Facebook's mobile reach to aggregate and analyze anonymous information about devices, operating systems and carriers: "From this starting point, we can establish test and control groups to determine how and when an ad on Facebook correlates to certain actions, such as a group of people switching to new handsets, tablets or carriers," Facebook explains. "We can provide our partners with insights regarding ROI, differences in adoption rates of devices or carriers segmented by demographic groups, and the types of ads and frequency of placements that yield the best ROI for carriers and operators."

Facebook is launching Telco Outcome Management in nine international markets, including the United States. The social network said that three of the four largest U.S. mobile operators are already using the service, but mentioned only AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) by name.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg article
- read this Business Insider article

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