Facebook says it intends to put testing of its mobile ad network on hold while it focuses on developing ad experiences within its own mobile apps.
Beginning in September, Facebook worked with a few unnamed partners to allow its unique targeting data to be used for mobile advertising in third-party apps and sites. This added a layer of demographic- and interest-based targeting to traditional mobile exchanges that bid for placements on mobile ad networks.
As AllThingsD first reported today, Facebook is bringing that test to a close some time this month. Facebook said in a statement:
“We are pausing our mobile ads test off of Facebook. While the results we have seen and the feedback from partners has been positive, our focus is on scaling ads in mobile news feed before ads off of Facebook. We have learned a lot from this test that will be useful in the future.”
In June, we discovered the first hints of a Facebook ad network when Sponsored Stories and other Facebook ads began appearing on Zynga.com. Those are still in place, but a new agreement with Zynga means the developer won’t be obligated to put Facebook ads on its site starting March 31.
The end of these two tests suggest a Facebook ad network similar to Google AdSense is farther off than some expected. AllThingsD sources say the company’s conversations with publishers about delivering ads on their sites in exchange for a revenue split have “paused.”
With so much desktop inventory, it might not make sense for Facebook to launch a display network at this time. Instead, it created Facebook Exchange to bring cookie-based retargeting ads to Facebook.com, filling up some inventory. As users shift to mobile, though, Facebook can’t deliver as many ads in its own apps or mobile site without infringing on user experience. That’s where the mobile network test came into play.
But either the results weren’t compelling enough or Facebook isn’t prepared to make the investment it would need to in order to scale the effort. Earlier this month, AllThingsD and Business Insider reported that the social network was considering buying Microsoft’s Atlas platform, which would put the company in a better position to launch an ad network.
In the meantime, Facebook seems to be putting resources toward ads within its own mobile apps and site. We’ve heard from a source familiar with the company’s plans that a new video ad is in the works. Facebook’s new local search and discovery feature, Nearby, also presents a number of interesting mobile ad opportunities for the future.