Facebook woos Madison Ave in pre-IPO mobile push

Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:09pm EST
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By Alexei Oreskovic and Alistair Barr

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook has unveiled new ways for businesses to reach its 845 million users directly across all devices, including mobile, as it races toward a multibillion dollar IPO.

With new "Premium on Facebook" ads, marketers can expand their reach on the social network by paying for a video, a coupon or other message to appear on the homepages of Facebook users, on the log-out screen and even within users' newsfeeds. Until now the newsfeed had been free of paid marketing messages.

"Our vision for marketing is that it is as good as any of the content you and I see on our newsfeed from a friend or family member," Facebook Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson told roughly 1,000 guests in the auditorium of Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday.

The event, which included an after-party with entertainment by singer Alicia Keys, marked a major charm offensive on Madison Avenue advertisers led by Everson, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook top brass.

The revamped features represent the company's latest push to convince businesses to spend money advertising on the world's No. 1 social network, rather than simply using Facebook as a free marketing tool. The new ads also mark Facebook's first effort to generate revenue from the growing ranks of consumers who access the service on mobile devices.

"Premium and mobile ads will help Facebook generate more revenue, particularly from big brand advertisers like Wal-Mart and Macy's," said eMarketer analyst Debra Williamson. "Premium will enable advertisers to have a broader reach on Facebook, but they will have to pay for that."

Allowing paid company posts onto users' newsfeeds is a risk for Facebook because newsfeeds could get overwhelmed with advertising messages, Williamson added.

"Facebook advertising in the past was off to the side," she said. "Now Facebook is taking the bold step of putting advertising right in the mix between photos of babies and updates on trips to restaurants."   Continued...

Facebook Vice President of Product Chris Cox delivers a keynote address at Facebook's "fMC" global event for marketers in New York City February 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar