Over time, if you're observant, you might have noticed a change in the ads you see when browsing Facebook. (Unless you have been too engrossed in stalking an ex or browsing photos that show that your high-school friend was unable to lose that baby weight) I can remember a time when all the ads I saw were for bodybuilding and The National Guard, neither of which appealed to me. But Facebook has gotten smarter with its ad targeting, and might possibly be getting even craftier.
According to Ad Age, Facebook is currently running tests by using real-time conversations in ad targeting. Apparently it is only being tested on 1% of users, which amounts to about 6 million people.
But I've been receiving targeted ads for a while now, you say. You are correct, you have. But those targeted ads work differently. All of your posts, statuses, likes, etc. are used to select which ads you are shown. For example, instead of National Guard ads, I now mostly see ads for zombie games and Battlestar Galactica spinoffs. Touche, Facebook. Those preferences are tracked over time and then targeted ads are delivered.
Real-time ads would attempt to target a user based on what they just said; whether it be a status update, a wall posting or a comment. This means if I update my status to, "Just totaled my car, wtf" I might be immediately shown an ad for Toyota or Ford. If my comment on my friend's status suggests that she should have an orange soda with her burger, I might soon see an ad for Sunkist on my screen. According to Ad Age, "Facebook didn't have to create new ads for this test and no particular advertiser has been tapped to participate -- the inventory remains as is." So this is all clearly in its testing phase.
Reggie Bradford, CEO of Facebook marketing company Virtue is quoted as saying:
"The long-held promise of local is to deliver timely, relevant and measurable ads which drive actions such as commerce, so if Facebook is moving in this direction, it's brilliant. This is a massive market shift everyone is pivoting toward, led by services such as Groupon. Facebook has the power of the graph of me and my friends placing them in the position to dominate this medium."
I did my own unscientific research to see if I was a part of this select few. I broadcast my need for a pizza to the world via a status update. I posted on my friend's wall that we really needed to get Final Four tickets. I commented on a friends status that I heard there was a Groupon for Chick-fil-a. I even replied to a comment on my own status about the pizza. Much to my chagrin, I don't think I am being real-time ad targeted. On the upside, I'm sure I confused my friends quite a bit.
Would real-time targeted ads work any better than the regular targeted ads? It depends. Facebook ads are notoriously easy to ignore. But if you were extremely hungry, and a Papa John's ad popped up tempting you with an $8 large 3-topping, who's to say you might not click on it once. Of course there must be some concerns that the real-time ads might occasionally get it wrong . If you break up with your girlfriend Wendy, you might not want a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.
Or maybe you do.