Facebook Is Quickly & Quietly Making a Killing With Ads That Stalk You

Wall Street wants Facebook to find a new source of aggressive growth, and the largely agile social network appears to have done just that — with ads that follow you from site to site and remember you for lengthy periods of time.

Facebook publicly launched its Facebook Exchange ad-bidding network less than three months ago and has been testing it only since June. But the system is already shaking up the ad business, say partners who have been on the exchange since the beginning, delivering a huge volume of users with a strong propensity to click on ads and helping advertisers follow those users for longer periods of time than is possible under competing systems. In the process Facebook is giving Google, long the undisputed leader in the so-called “retargeting business,” a run for its money.

“Nine months ago, it seemed patently clear to me as a longtime participant in this industry that [Google’s] DoubleClick was just running away with the opportunities; they were just leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else,” says Josh McFarland, CEO of ad targeting company TellApart. “There was no other game in town, and then suddenly Facebook came on the scene and then literally in about three months became an exchange that is almost as powerful and almost as highly performing as the oldest, best ad exchange out there, which is DoubleClick.”

Retargeting lets advertisers utilize data they have about their customers. When I go to Backcountry.com and I look at a pair of skis, in the same way that Backcountry.com might send me an email saying, “Hey, you know these skis are on sale, you should buy them,” or the way that they would change their site to show me the skis that I looked at the last time, when I visit again — they can also do the same thing with their ads. So that, when they show you their ads, they can show ads about things that you’re interested in. So, on Facebook, they’re now enabling those advertisers to do that, too.

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