AdTech Star Nanigans Scoops Up Facebook’s Retargeted Ads Director Antonio Garcia-Martinez

Facebook’s just lost some critical business talent. Today, ads product director Gokul Rajaram was poached by Square, and now Facebook Exchange director Antonio Garcia-Martinez, who left in April, has signed on with one of Facebook’s top ad partners, Nanigans. Garcia-Martinez could help Nanigans keep adapting to Facebook’s ever-changing ad platform.

Founded in 2010, Nanigans has become a powerhouse in the social advertising world. It began with a focus on helping game developers determine the ROI of their marketing spend by showing how far users brought in through ads got into a game. With time it expanded into more traditional brand advertising on Facebook.

What’s really differentiated Nanigans, though, is its ability to keep up with the breakneck pace of the evolution of Facebook’s ads products. It quickly integrated Facebook’s Custom Audiences system, which lets advertisers reach a set of people they already have the email addresses or phone numbers for. It also built out real-time bidding demand side platform retargeting technology so it could serve Facebook Exchange (FBX) ads, which are targeted based on cookies showing where else someone has browsed on the web.

That’s how it ended up working with Antonio. Years ago he sold his Y Combinator adtech startup, AdGrok, to Twitter but jumped ship to join Facebook. There he built FBX and directed the product from its inception.

From his privileged vantage point, Garcia-Martinez could assess all of Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developers, and when he left, he knew he had a hunch about who he wanted to work with. “Nanigans is the real deal. They were on top of all the innovative products Facebook was building. It’s the one company that does both sides well — traditional Facebook ads and retargeting. Basically, I thought they were the best PMD partner that Facebook has.”

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 1.00.09 PMThose two sides combine to give Nanigans some advantages, Antonio explains. “From a purely sales perspective, an advertiser like has a pretty big social budget and they do FB ads, but want to do retargeting, as well. They can have their entire Facebook buy through one company.

“There’s also interesting things you could imagine in social and real-time bidding,” Antonio tells me, referring to the fact that right now Facebook advertisers can’t combine its traditional biographical targeting with cookie-based retargeting. I expect to make that combination available eventually if it can figure out the privacy implications. “If Facebook goes in that direction, straddling that divide could be interesting,” Antonio says with a hint that he hopes Facebook relaxes the restrictions on what advertisers can do.

Don’t expect him to give Nanigans any unfair help, though. “I’m still completely held to my confidentiality restrictions, of course. Frankly, Facebook’s product roadmap changes so quickly that anything I know would date so quickly I don’t think there are beans I could spill.”