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