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Facebook to Take Lead in Display on Web? Hold On…

By - May 10, 2011

Today a big story broke across my news feeds: “Facebook set for display ad lead” says one typical headline in the Financial Times. It continues:

Facebook’s large user base will make it the world’s largest online display advertising company by revenue this year, overtaking the comparable businesses of Google and Yahoo, according to analysis published on Tuesday. Enders Analysis, based in London, in a report on Tuesday, forecasts that Facebook will lift its advertising revenues from $1.8bn to $3.5bn in 2011, a rise of 95 per cent. At the same time, Google’s display business – which includes YouTube, the video site, and DoubleClick, its banner network – is expected to rise from $2bn last year to $2.6bn this year …

The comparison makes for great headlines, but I don’t really think it’s apples to apples. First of all, it excludes all of Google’s search advertising, which has been evolving quite rapidly towards a more “display” like look and feel. And secondly, it’s rather hard to tell the difference between Google search ads and Facebook “display” ads. After all, this is what Facebook display ads look like:

Fbook display.png

And this is what Google “search” ads look like:

Google search .png

Further confusing the analysis, this is what Google “search” ads look like when they include an image, which you can do now if you want:

Google search w image.png

Now that looks an awful lot like a typical Facebook display ad, doesn’t it?

I am quite sure if you did the analysis against creative as opposed to categorizing “search” as distinct from “display,” the headlines about “Facebook taking over from Google” would surely disappear.

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  • Steve

    Doesn’t matter what the ads look like. Even if they look similar, Google search ads are inherently distinct from FB display ads in that search ads are served in direct response to a user’s search intent whereas display ads are not (search re-targeting doesn’t count).

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  • Seo

    It’s all about the spin put on the statistics. At the end of the day, I would rather have Google’s Ad revenue, regardless of what you call it than Facebook’s ad revenue. That’s if I actually had to choose between the two!

  • Ross Bradley

    John – I have been looking at Facebook Ads and have come up with the following firm conclusion.

  • Ben Plomiom

    Steve. 100% agree, customer intent will determine wheter those ads will perform. Creatives and placements are secondary. Google remains a leader in capturing those customer intents, until Facebook can figure out how to dissociate passive (i.e contextual) from true intent.

    Interesting comments on search retargeting. We are seeing some success with retailers right now in the order of 10 to 1. This is primarily because we serve display ads based on customer intent that was captured through their search terms.

    Ben Plomion

  • Gabriel Goldenberg

    I think you’re looking at something cosmetic whereas the above comparisons are more substantive. Permission vs interruption marketing is the substantive difference, despite the slight misnomer of ‘display’ ads.

  • Versie Bartlett

    Every time I hit an ad on FB I ended with a virus or the ad took me to nowhere land!

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    That’s a bad news. I know some links that are actually fake. Some thought it’s FB, but it’ is not. It is a big disadvantage to them.

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