Twitter's Mobile Ad Offerings Just Took A Huge Step Forward -- And They Might Be Even Better Than Facebook's

Twitter IPOAndrew Burton/Getty ImagesFrom left: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, co-founder Jack Dorsey, CFO Mike Gupta, co-founder Ev Williams, and co-founder Biz Stone

Twitter is rolling out an advertising product that allows advertisers to target mobile users based on how they surf the Web on their desktops, a function that isn’t yet fully available to Facebook’s mobile advertisers.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reports that Twitter will identify users by their login data to show them ads on mobile and desktop devices that are targeted to them based on cookies the users have picked up surfing the Web.

The move is a huge step forward as advertisers continue looking for ways to send relevant messages to users on mobile, where it has harder-to-identify user preferences. This is because the default settings on Apple devices turns off third-party cookies, and Android devices only track what users do in the Web browser.

Twitter’s retargeting news is also important in light of the fact that it gives Twitter an increased ability to track users across devices, a major initiative shared by rivals Facebook and Google as people continue to use the Internet on a mix of smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Twitter can benefit greatly by being able to match up the mobile and desktop devices a user has logged in to and then show them ads based on the sites they visited on the desktop while they were logged in to Twitter.

By contrast, Facebook’s only mobile retargeting product is its custom audiences offering, which allows advertisers to target users who have visited their own sites. Though Facebook has the login data necessary to target mobile users in the same manner as Twitter, the company has recently been working to simplify its advertising offerings and take care of one thing at a time.

Additionally, Facebook’s complex privacy settings mean the company needs to take its time to make sure its eventual mobile retargeting efforts don’t rankle privacy advocates who are already upset with the social network, as it did when it launched its desktop retargeting ad exchange, FBX. By contrast, Twitter allows people to simply opt out of any kind of targeted ads by clicking a box in their privacy settings.

Twitter started experimenting with its retargeted advertising program this past summer. TechCrunch reports that Twitter will work with advertisers directly on retargeted ad buys as it did during the trial program, but the company might bring in demand-side platforms to facilitate real-time bidding.

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