Facebook Lets Exchange Partners Speak, But Still Won't Invite Google to Party

Fourteen Startups and One Holding Company Granted Access to Facebook Ad Inventory

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Facebook is partly lifting the veil of secrecy it had dropped over its ad exchange, letting the DSPs and retargeting firms that have been granted access to its inventory publicly discuss it for the first time today. One big player you won't hear talking, though, is Google, whose Invite Media still hasn't received an invitation.

After Facebook announced that it would enable real-time bidding on its platform in June, allowing advertisers for the first time to use their first- and third-party data to target ads to Facebook users (though without any of Facebook's targeting options available on top of it), the company became tight-lipped about "FBX."

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg

During the company's first earnings call as a public company in July, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said that it was in "early alpha testing," and Facebook was reportedly so serious about maintaining silence that there was a reckoning for two of the eight companies it took its exchange public with. According to All Things D, they were kicked out -- at least temporarily -- for being too loquacious.

No one was permanently expelled from the Facebook exchange, but some believe their access to the platform was delayed for breaking Facebook's rules. The net result is that companies declined to even admit that they had access to FBX in the last nearly three months, much less discuss how well it was working, but today the veil has been lifted through a series of orchestrated announcements.

Previously confirmed players like Turn, Triggit and AdRoll raised their hands, as well as lesser-known companies in the ad-tech world such as Optimal, a Facebook Ads API Partner that 's increasingly turned its business to social ads but also has a DSP platform. Vague detail beyond participation was offered; for instance, AdRoll's release stated that its beta testers had seen "average ROI of 16x."

Facebook's ad exchange represents a huge opportunity for data firms and retargeters that can layer their data over Facebook's ad inventory. But what's fascinating is how -- and to whom --Facebook has granted access to it. The first set of partners, AdRoll, AppNexus, Dataxu, MediaMath, TellApart, Triggit, Turn and The Trade Desk, and more recently, Criteo, Kenshoo, Nanigans, Optimal, Rocket Fuel and X+1, are all startups. WPP's Xaxis was added, bringing an agency trading desk into the picture.

What's notable is that there appears to be no rush to add Google's DoubleClick Bid Manager (formerly known as Invite Media.) A Google spokesman confirmed it still not been invited to participate. Ad Age reported last month that Facebook's exclusion of DoubleClick Bid Manager had put it at odds with Publicis Groupe , whose trading desk relies heavily on Google's technology for its targeted ad-buying. The issue was serious enough for Publicis that it prompted CEO Maurice Levy to personally reach out to Ms. Sandberg.

Long term, most expect Facebook and Google to work together, but in the meantime Facebook is giving a host of startups a head start using the system, and Google's DSP clients that want to buy Facebook inventory have to look elsewhere.

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