• As Part of Facebook, LiveRail Will Extend Its Platform to Mobile Display Ads

    At LiveRail's Publisher Forum yesterday, CEO and co-founder Mark Trefgarne shared product roadmap details, including support for mobile display advertising, taking the company beyond its video advertising roots. Mark said LiveRail will offer full display ad serving across all devices and a unified video/display SDK for Android and iOS. Mobile display units will include banners, interstitial and native.

    With these new display units, LiveRail will expand its mobile ad serving and programmatic capabilities beyond video. All of this will be offered initially through the Facebook Audience Network which provides monetization to mobile apps outside of Facebook. In addition, LiveRail previewed what it's calling "Platform 5," a next-generation UI for ad operations, which streamlines workflows.

    The expansion into mobile display ads comes nearly 3 months after Facebook acquired LiveRail for a reported $500 million. On the surface it seemed Facebook was seeking a bigger play in video advertising, a new area for the company, and which LiveRail certainly provides. But as Brian Boland, Facebook's VP of Ads and Product Marketing explained in an on-stage interview with Mark, LiveRail is a critical part of enabling Facebook's ads to extend to 3rd party publishers. Helping publishers monetize their audiences is a core LiveRail expertise that Boland said Facebook itself doesn't have and which Facebook clearly believes can be expanded beyond just video.

    Outside of LiveRail, Facebook has already taken a number of steps to broaden its ad ecosystem, including the recent launch of Facebook Audience Network and acquisition of the Atlas ad server from Microsoft. Given its extensive user data, Facebook is in a strong position to help publishers better monetize (assuming their wariness doesn't grow). All of this puts Facebook in closer competition with Google, which has of course been helping publishers better monetize for years.

    Boland said that Facebook's broader agenda is to help move more brands' advertising dollars into digital. He characterized brands as not yet completely comfortable with digital, with spending not yet commensurate with time spent by users on digital media. Boland said Facebook is aiming to increase brands' confidence in digital media generally and enhance the value of video ad impressions in particular by better tying them to actual business results.

    Boland emphasized however, that none of LiveRail's new initiatives around display or supporting Facebook's broader ad goals will detract from the company's traditional rigorous focus on serving publishers' video ad needs. Clearly though, LiveRail's  developers are going to have very full plates for the foreseeable future!