Facebook Starts Up Its Mobile Ad Network Again, Focuses On Improved Targeting

After a nine-month pause, Facebook is taking its mobile ad network out for another spin. “We’re running a second test to show Facebook ads off Facebook in mobile ads and on mobile sites. Our goal is to improve the relevancy of the ads people see. Since this is a test, we don’t have additional details to share,” a Facebook representative told TechCrunch.

Facebook first launched its mobile ad network in September 2012, but stopped three months later. The company told us at the time that the initial run was a test to see how the network would perform and whether or not people would find the ads relevant.

Josh Constine, our Facebook expert, explains that one reason for the pause may have been low margins. Facebook needed to channel its energy into clear money makers like its mobile app install ads and Facebook Exchange. Now that those two programs are up and running, the company can once again focus on fine-tuning its offsite ad network. One way to grow margins and increase the cut Facebook gets from providing the data needed to target ads may be to buy an existing medium-sized mobile ad network.

In the first itiration of Facebook’s mobile ad network, the company acted as an ad-exchange layer on top of traditional ad exchanges like Mobclix or Nexage that bid for placement on mobile advertising publishers such as Google’s AdMob or Apple’s iAd. The program allowed advertisers to pay to target you with ads that are based on your Facebook data and appear when you browse other apps or mobile sites. Facebook first experimented with off-site targeted advertising in June 2012 by running Sponsored Stories on Zynga.com in a revenue split partnership.

Facebook has moved very cautiously with the deployment of its offsite ad network despite its massive network of like buttons and widgets. A mobile ad network is one way for Facebook to leverage the vast amount of personal data it has access to without altering the user experience of its Web site and native apps. Though its non-social, in-feed ad unit, which lets mobile developers pay to show download links to their apps on Facebook for iOS or Android, has proven profitable, it was criticized because many users felt the ads cluttered their news feed.