Changing the Face of Brand Advertising Online

facebooklogo6.gifIt’s offical. Facebook is now an advertising network with Web-wide ambitions. Today’s announcement of Facebook Ads is the company’s play to become a major force in brand advertising online, as we reported previously. Facebook Ads is a new platform for creating and disseminating socially-aware ads on Facebook.

Facebook Ads is comprised of three parts: Ads targeted at Facebook members using their profile data such as age, gender, relationship status, work history, and stated interests (Social Ads); ad widgets that advertisers can put on their own sites that allow Facebook members to become product endorsers, and spread that endorsement to all of their friends on Facebook through their personal feeds (Beacon); and aggregated profile information that is exposed to Facebook advertisers that tells them what kind of people are getting their ads and who is clicking on them (Insight).

Facebook will be controlling the inventory for these Social Ads, not Microsoft (which continues to serve the more generic, standard ads on Facebook). It is CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that these will become extremely relevant brand advertisements because they are akin to personal recommendations from your friends. So, for example, if I choose to endorse a particular movie, all my friends will see that I like that movie in the feeds that shows what everyone in their network is up to. An endorsement, in that case, is yet another action that Facebook tracks.

Whether consumers actually want to become product marketers is another question entirely. To the extent that endorsing a brand is seen as a way to express your identity or expertise rather than as a way to flog a product, people could embrace it. But advertisers have to be real careful, because if these ads seem too much like ads, people may actually lose friends over it. And those once-happy customers could turn irate quickly.

But if Facebook figures this out, we may start seeing these social ads appearing elsewhere on the Web as well. For now, though, it is a Facebook-only program that goes live tomorrow.