They Might Be Giants

From Google to startups like Square, a look at seven would-be mobile titans

Jeff Kanter
Product manager, feed ads

Everything changed for Facebook in 2012. The social network started the year as a private company with zero mobile ad revenue and ended it as a public one with 23 percent of its $1.33 billion in fourth-quarter ad revenue coming from mobile. Much of that transformation can be attributed to Facebook’s introduction of ads in its News Feed in the spring.

“It’s pretty amazing if you think back to a year ago today, we didn’t even have ads on mobile or ads on the desktop feed,” Jeff Kanter told Adweek last week at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.

In many ways, Kanter’s 2012 was a microcosm of Facebook’s. A five-plus-year vet of the company, early into the year the product manager transitioned his focus from Facebook Pages to the as-of-then-unreleased feed ads. The shift from working with marketers on their owned and earned media strategies to specializing in paid media products may seem dramatic, but Kanter’s experience was crucial in preparing him to help grow Facebook’s feed ads business fast. Now, 65 percent of the company’s advertisers appear in the News Feed.

That’s because Kanter worked on the first redesign of Pages, a significant step in Facebook’s budding revenue strategy. Launched in 2009, Facebook Pages represented the company’s commitment to connecting brands and users without banner ads. “It was the first time it gave Pages a voice, so they could actually distribute their posts into people’s feeds,” Kanter says, referring to the redesign.

Over the last year, Kanter has applied that experience to helping advertisers get their messages into people’s News Feeds through paid means. And as more of Facebook’s users gravitate toward accessing the service on their smartphones and tablets, that means even greater attention to the mobile feeds. The company counts 680 million mobile monthly active users, and 157 million of its 1.06 billion monthly users access it exclusively via mobile.

Kanter works primarily with two other teams at Facebook. In addition to the designers focused on creating Facebook’s ads, the ads product marketing team (dubbed the PMM team) serves as the voice of Facebook’s advertisers, informing the development of new products and features. Meanwhile, the user experience team (or UEX) gauges consumer sentiment, conducting test groups around new units and asking and responding to questions about ads or stories in feeds.

Kanter wouldn’t share much about his team’s road map for 2013 except to say it spans refining existing ads and developing new ones. In a nod to his directional thinking, Kanter pointed to a recent move this year to make the images tied to links shared in the desktop News Feed nearly three times larger. That may seem like a small thing, but it’s just one of many projects on his mind. As far as Facebook has come in the past year, he says, “We have a lot of work to do.” —T.P.

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