The Real-Time Web Welcomes Real-Time Advertising

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It’s too bad that Facebook and Twitter haven’t quite figured out their unique advertising models yet.

It’s easy to be jealous of Google and everything they have managed to accomplish with Google AdWords and their unique advertising platform. While Google’s advertising solution seems simple enough (a small text-based ad that is contextual to the search and paid for by the advertiser only when someone clicks on it), all of the best things in life are usually very simple by design. Also, it’s important to note that most innovations only appear simple in hindsight. Google struggled for years tweaking the model until it became the beauty (and monster money-maker) we have before our eyes.

Facebook and Twitter have been struggling with new advertising models.

Beyond the missteps (anyone remember Facebook Beacon?) and other advertising-like oddities, the current advertising models are either similar to Google (in terms of only displaying advertising in context) or the ads just look like any other form of traditional online advertising… until now. Facebook seems to semi-serious about delivering ads in a real-time world.

Think about it this way…

If you’re hungry for pizza and put that on your Facebook status, wouldn’t a coupon from one of your favorite pizza home delivery joints be perfectly appropriate at that, exact, moment in time? Ad Age reported Facebook’s latest foray into the modernization of online advertising with an ad format that will do just that. In a follow-up news item (Will Ads in Real Time Be Facebook’s Holy Grail?) published today, Ad Age reported: "Facebook is attempting to match existing ads in its system to status updates and wall posts in real time, based on a combination of user profile data (including at times, keywords and interests) along with the current update. But when it does come time to sell these ads, experts suggest advertisers will be willing to pay much higher prices, helping to boost the nearly $2 billion in revenue the site reaped in 2010. Offering ads relevant to a person’s immediate needs or state is one thing. Facebook’s real opportunity – and what sets it apart from Google – lies in mixing that relevancy with all the information it already has about users based on their profiles, such as location, age and gender."

You would think that Twitter would be all over this as well. You would be wrong.

As Facebook presses on, Twitter still lags behind. Just last week, The Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital Blog had a news item titled, Twitter Ads Move Forward by Carving Up The Globe (March 24th, 2011). Simply put, Twitter is rolling out a supplemental service to their current Promoted Tweets program that enables certain advertisers to target their ad tweets by location. "If this strikes you as a common-sense must-have feature for any Web ad business-let alone one with Google-sized ambitions-you’re right," stated the All Things Digital Blog post. "Which shows just how embryonic Twitter’s ad product is today, nearly a year after launch."

The gap widens, but it’s still early days.

Digital Marketing professionals tend to think that there is nothing new happening under the sun in advertising innovation. We also love to play armchair quarterback and question how many of these Social Media spaces are really going to pull in significant revenue and create a platform that the more general mass advertisers will pay attention to. Personally, it’s interesting to read both of those news item and to then spend a couple of minutes reflecting on how new all of this truly is.

What is obvious?

We don’t have all of the answers. This type of testing and experimentation is ultimately good (even if it fails). We’re in the middle of a huge shift and change in advertising: how often do you get to be an active participant in the development of newer advertising models and platforms? It’s an exciting time. Whether or not Facebook, Twitter or even Google continues to dominate the zeitgeist is less important when compared to the reality that it’s a great time to be in marketing as all of this unfolds before our eyes.

I hope you agree?


  1. Hey Mitch,
    Great post and I love your take on how exciting it is to be a digital marketer right now, could not agree more! I have a follow-up question for you… you referred to beacon earlier in the post and I though that to be very relevant here.
    How do you think consumers will react to real-time display ads? Do you think they would find it creepy or cool?
    Would love to hear your thoughts. Keep the insights coming!

  2. There’s an app called TwitHawk which does precisely this for Twitter, you setup your searches including search terms and the location, and when it finds people talking about that topic, in that location, lets you know so you can reply to them. Real time.
    Love to hear your thoughts on this, could make for a good article in it’s own right?

  3. Many people complain about Facebook’s privacy invasion but secretly people like to be in the spotlight. They like it when people know about them – why not advertisers? Would you rather be hit by countless ads that have no value to you? Or by ads that you are interested in?
    Seems like a no-brained to me

  4. That Twitter has not come very far in a year since launching Promoted Tweets speaks volumes about Googles investment in their format. It is not obvious at all the work Google does on improving existing models and inventing new ones. Goolge usually “gets it” and if they don’t they are unafraid to spend money until they do.

  5. Thanks for the great post. I love the insight about the exciting times we live in and how we are still in the experimental phase when it comes to “real time advertising.” I know a lot of people have privacy concerns which I do understand but to me, this relevant and targeted advertising system is a huge step from those annoying pop-ups that used to infiltrate our online lives. As the technology further develops and becomes even more useful I am ok with sharing my information because in the long run I think it will only benefit my overall experience. I Can’t wait to see what come out next!!

  6. I bet some people will be freaked out by this new ads evolution, but I honestly think it’s kinda natural, a change we could not probably predict, but at least “feel” in the air, so to say. It doesn’t bother me because it’s not different from what Google already does with GMail, just more “responsive”, and probably it will make also more sense.

  7. I wish.
    They know about it as they’ve contacted me in the past regarding API usage, but don’t sound interested in acquiring.
    The site is up for acquisition though, been around for over 2 years now, so it’s pretty steady. iPhone and Android app is about to be launched too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. “If you’re hungry for pizza and put that on your Facebook status,
    wouldn’t a coupon from one of your favorite pizza home delivery joints
    be perfectly appropriate at that, exact, moment in time?” – sure it
    would be good to get a coupon if you are a consumer but is it for the
    pizza owner? Is that what online marketing is – giving things at a discount just
    because someone wants it at that time?
    My expectation from the marketing expert is, if I was a restaurant owner or retailer or any business owner, that when someone enters “I want a pizza” in their status you
    target him with such a compeling and persuading message based on the data knowledge you gathered about that customer that he will order my pizza at a premium and will come back for another the moment hunger strikes him without having the time to enter a status message.
    Am I wrong to expect that from a marketing expert?
    I have recently taken a few emarketing evening courses at University to network and see what’s happening and here’s my take on the current DIGITAL MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING expert landscape: everyone thinks they are a marketing expert because they have tweeted, blogged or created a Facebook page. I have seen people who graduated with History degrees but couldn’t get a job (obviously), returned back to nightschool taking 2 or 3 e-marketing/e-business courses and landing marketing jobs at farily good corporations. These people know nothing about marketing. Nothing. The only thing they can come up with in terms of marketing is “let’s create a coupon image that says 99% Off and everyone will buy the product”.
    This phenomenon is similar to what happened in the Graphic Arts industry when the PC took off with the help of Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign. Suddenly every Geography major student became a graphic design expert creating marketing collateral for companies for a fraction of what a real designer would charge. When the files arrived at a commercial printer it was impossible to print the artwork. It had to be redone at additional cost and companies wondered why.

  9. Discounting and coupons are a tiny part of the advertising world (which is a big part of Marketing). It’s not the only thing (at all), but in a real-time world it is the type of tactic that would probably convert well.
    Without question, people pay a premium based on needs as well, so there is no doubt that there is some sound thinking there – depending on the brand and the need.
    As for Marketing professionals, I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like that. There are many sharp and bright people just out of university who do have a strong enough basis to make some strong moves.
    Regardless, Blogs and Twitter are no indication of success at execution – for that you have to do your own homework and find the right people for the job.

  10. Mitch, thanks for the well thought out reply. I do apologize for that generalized comment about marketing professionals, I am sure, like you said, that there are some bright people entering the marketing profession.

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