Why Advertisers Will Drool Over Facebook's Acquisition Of Face.com

Facebook control who tags youPhoto-tagging in action.

Photo: Facebook

Although privacy activists have concerns about Facebook’s acquisition of facial recognition service Face.com last week, there are reasons why brands might see benefits from the partnership.Currently, Face.com’s technology is only able to tag people—it can also guess gender, age, and even mood.

But there’s speculation that the software will eventually be able to identify brands that are in users’ pictures, from the clothes you’re wearing to the soda you’re drinking. According to HuffPost, some brands already use this technology to identify clothing in photos online.

This wouldn’t be a revolutionary move for Facebook, either: The social networking first incorporated tagging brands in photos in 2011.

But even if McDonald’s fries don’t start getting tagged in photos, brands can still take advantage of facial recognition software. In fact, they already have outside of Facebook.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that advertisers, including Kraft and Adidas, were considering using in-store facial recognition technology to tailor their pitches to potential customers so that they can use age and gender to direct them to the appropriate product. The Venetian hotel and casino in Las Vegas, for example, already uses it in digital displays to suggest different entertainment options to different demographics (although the technology is less helpful for 25-year-olds sporting senior citizen-like vintage duds).

Media Post’s Social Media Insider even suggested that brands could target Facebook advertisements based on fans’ facial expressions: looking sad? Take a trip to Disneyland! (Although the tip was tongue-in-cheek, this doesn’t seem unreasonable.)

“It’s also possible that this could open up doors for advertisers to target users in new ways based on what they are doing in pictures,” Sophos’ senior security adviser, Chester Wisniewski, told Mashable.

While these are all possible in the not-so-distant future, perhaps the most immediate benefit to advertisers is the fact that the acquisition could improve Facebook’s mobile experience overall by making it easier for users to tag people on their phones.

In a panel on the future of mobile advertising at Internet Week last month, experts discussed how advertisers were itching for a more user- and brand-friendly Facebook mobile experience. Considering that mobile click-through rates are 13 times that of desktop ads (and earn 11 times more in sales), Face.com could be part of the solution.

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