AdRoll, a firm that serves ads based on websites you’ve visited in the past, says it’s poised to pull in more than $50 million revenue for 2012 and that ads it places on Facebook perform two to three times better than regular ads on the social network. The numbers, if accurate, may provide more grist to the chatter over what Facebook’s ad income will look like when earnings are announced on January 30.
AdRoll has been flagged as the fastest growing ad company in America and is also one of eight companies that Facebook tapped this summer to sell ads on the site based on users’ web surfing habits — before then, Facebook sold ads based only on user demographics and on social activities such as “Likes.”
In a phone interview, AdRoll CEO Aaron Bell said the company has run more than 1000 Facebook ad campaigns with more than 700 clients such as American Apparel, Skull Candy and custom suit maker, Indochino. Bell said AdRoll’s ability to “retarget” Facebook users means the ads it serves are far more likely than regular ads to lead the viewer to click on them or, eventually, to make a purchase.
That’s all very weel but does it help answer the $3.5 billion question? That number, if you’re wondering, is what Google earned in Q4 of 2012 — almost all of it through advertising — and is a figure Facebook investors hope the social network may one day replicate. Facebook, with its huge user base and deep pools of data, is poised to be an ad behemoth too but faces obstacles Google does not. The biggest of these is that, unlike people using a search engine, users on the social network want to chat with their friends and may be reluctant to break off the banter to go and buy something.
The proof will be in the pudding next week when Facebook announces its results. In the meantime, notwithstanding AdRoll’s efforts, many of
Facebook’s ad attempts still seem baffling. Look at the screenshot at right, for instance, which is taken from my own most recent visit to the social network: shiny disco pants (never worn them), toner (I don’t own a printer) and something to do with films and a goat (no idea…). Investors better hope CEO Mark Zuckerberg has figured out the ad strategy here even if I can’t.