Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 28, 2011 9:37 PM

The Real-Time Web Welcomes Real-Time Advertising

It's too bad that Facebook and Twitter haven't quite figured out their unique advertising models yet.

It's easy to be jealous of Google and everything they have managed to accomplish with Google AdWords and their unique advertising platform. While Google's advertising solution seems simple enough (a small text-based ad that is contextual to the search and paid for by the advertiser only when someone clicks on it), all of the best things in life are usually very simple by design. Also, it's important to note that most innovations only appear simple in hindsight. Google struggled for years tweaking the model until it became the beauty (and monster money-maker) we have before our eyes.

Facebook and Twitter have been struggling with new advertising models.

Beyond the missteps (anyone remember Facebook Beacon?) and other advertising-like oddities, the current advertising models are either similar to Google (in terms of only displaying advertising in context) or the ads just look like any other form of traditional online advertising... until now. Facebook seems to semi-serious about delivering ads in a real-time world.

Think about it this way...

If you're hungry for pizza and put that on your Facebook status, wouldn't a coupon from one of your favorite pizza home delivery joints be perfectly appropriate at that, exact, moment in time? Ad Age reported Facebook's latest foray into the modernization of online advertising with an ad format that will do just that. In a follow-up news item (Will Ads in Real Time Be Facebook's Holy Grail?) published today, Ad Age reported: "Facebook is attempting to match existing ads in its system to status updates and wall posts in real time, based on a combination of user profile data (including at times, keywords and interests) along with the current update. But when it does come time to sell these ads, experts suggest advertisers will be willing to pay much higher prices, helping to boost the nearly $2 billion in revenue the site reaped in 2010. Offering ads relevant to a person's immediate needs or state is one thing. Facebook's real opportunity - and what sets it apart from Google - lies in mixing that relevancy with all the information it already has about users based on their profiles, such as location, age and gender."

You would think that Twitter would be all over this as well. You would be wrong.

As Facebook presses on, Twitter still lags behind. Just last week, The Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital Blog had a news item titled, Twitter Ads Move Forward by Carving Up The Globe (March 24th, 2011). Simply put, Twitter is rolling out a supplemental service to their current Promoted Tweets program that enables certain advertisers to target their ad tweets by location. "If this strikes you as a common-sense must-have feature for any Web ad business-let alone one with Google-sized ambitions-you're right," stated the All Things Digital Blog post. "Which shows just how embryonic Twitter's ad product is today, nearly a year after launch."

The gap widens, but it's still early days.

Digital Marketing professionals tend to think that there is nothing new happening under the sun in advertising innovation. We also love to play armchair quarterback and question how many of these Social Media spaces are really going to pull in significant revenue and create a platform that the more general mass advertisers will pay attention to. Personally, it's interesting to read both of those news item and to then spend a couple of minutes reflecting on how new all of this truly is.

What is obvious?

We don't have all of the answers. This type of testing and experimentation is ultimately good (even if it fails). We're in the middle of a huge shift and change in advertising: how often do you get to be an active participant in the development of newer advertising models and platforms? It's an exciting time. Whether or not Facebook, Twitter or even Google continues to dominate the zeitgeist is less important when compared to the reality that it's a great time to be in marketing as all of this unfolds before our eyes.

I hope you agree?

By Mitch Joel