Facebook Is About To Go To War Against Google

fortune mark zuckerberg larry pageAn old Fortune magazine cover.

Spruce Media, one of Facebook’s biggest ad-buying clients, predicts that Facebook will go “head-to-head” against Google for advertising on the wider web, a move which should “turn the existing display ad world on its head,” the company says.The prediction comes in Spruce’s Q4 report, “The State of Facebook Advertising,” which looks at pricing and performance across a range of Facebook ad types.

The most interesting bit of it, however, is Spruce’s discussion of the advantage Facebook may develop in its ability to track users from desktop to mobile and back again. It’s a discussion that should be taken seriously because Spruce is one of Facebook’s 12 Strategic Preferred Marketing Developers, and it handles ads for Procter & Gamble and Samsung, among others.

Currently, it’s nearly impossible to figure out if a mobile phone user browsing the web is the same person who was browsing just a few minute ago on their laptop.

But because Facebook users tend to stay logged in on both their phones and their computers, their identity is easier to spot — and target with ads — when they switch devices.

And because Facebook users can be tracked on non-Facebook sites, that puts Facebook’s ad business squarely inside turf currently dominated by Google.

Meaningful cross-device tracking could ultimately boost Facebook’s revenue by three times, Spruce predicts:

The social network has a unique advantage since social identities can travel across devices from mobile to desktop. Existing PC cookies cannot be tracked in mobile currently.

Right now we know at some point Facebook will begin serving ads off of Facebook.com and their mobile applications and when they do, they will likely go head-to-head with Google, fighting for publisher placement and opening themselves up to multiply their revenues by as much as 3X. The available targeting should turn the existing display ad world on its head …

It’s merely a prediction at this point because Facebook recently put a test of its off-Facebook mobile app advertising network on hold. Nonetheless, the test suggests that Facebook is indeed interested in serving ads outside the Facebook environment, offering Facebook users as ad targets elsewhere on the web or in apps.

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