The Best Facebook Ad Network

by Jesse Farmer on Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Even though most Facebook application developers make money off of low-CPM display ads from one of the many Facebook-specific ad networks, browsing the developer forum shows that lots of people don't have good information about which ad network is right for them. I'm here to tell you, once and for all, which ad network is the best.

The State of Advertising

There are dozens of Facebook ad networks with new ones cropping up all the time, including, in no particular order, SocialMedia, RockYou, Lookery, Cubics, VideoEgg, and AdBlade. They vary according to their terms, deals, performance, and stability.

As you can see the Facebook ad market is still very immature. Because of that most ad networks don't have the inventory to satisfy the demand and the fragmentation makes it difficult to get major advertising agencies to spend on Facebook.

It doesn't help that most developers are inexperienced when it comes to advertising, so one-on-one deals are probably out of reach for most of them.

The Best Facebook Ad Network

In light of the above, most developers turn to one of many ad networks to rep their inventory. If they're lucky they might see a $2 eCPM, but in truth they'll probably see an order or two magnitude less.

Lookery, for example, has a "guaranteed 12¢ CPM" program for US your traffic. They had to stop signing people up because the demand overwhelmed them. That tells you something about how much you can expect to earn by running simple display ads on Facebook.

So, which ad network is the best? The best ad network is the one that earns you the most money in the long runSince ad-supported companies exist in a two-sided market it's important to realize that short-term gains (e.g., tricking your users into installing spyware) might be readily available, but at the cost of future growth. How you find the balance point is beyond the scope of this article..

You Set Me Up! or A/B Testing for Fun and Profit

Ok, ok, I admit it, I set you up. But it's true. Your choice of ad network should be simple. Does Lookery make me more money in the long run than any of the others? If yes, use Lookery.

You can determine this quantitatively with A/B testing. Here's a basic example, in PHP:

function get_random_ad_code() {
	$ad_codes = array(
		'lookery'     => 'Your Lookery ad code',
		'adblade'     => 'Your AdBlade ad code',
		'socialmedia' => 'Your SocialMedia ad code',
		'rockyou'     => 'Your RockYou ad code'
	return $ad_codes[array_rand($ad_codes)];

echo get_random_ad_code();

get_random_ad_code will return each ad code with equal probability. Assuming all other variables are constant (i.e., the ads appear in the same place, with the same colors, and without any other ads on the page) then you can look at the earnings reports for each of the above and know, for certain, which ad network performs best on average for your app.

Yes, that's right — there's no single "best" ad network. Two ad networks perform differently depending on their inventory. Some might have ads that do well for EU traffic and poorly for US traffic, or vice versa.

If you ask "which ad network is best?" on the Facebook developer forums you'll get a million anecdotes and little data, but decisions without data are guesses.

So test your own app with all the ad networks and answer the question yourself. Then you'll really know which Facebook ad network is the best.