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[Update: Facebook has responded with a clarification about its Nov 4 policy. Comment inserted below.]
A shakeup is happening in the ad technology industry, sparked by, or at least accelerated by, Facebook’s recent move to cordon off access to its coveted device level ID information.
Tune, a leading third-party measurement company, has just acquired Artisan Mobile, a Philadelphia company that helps marketers engage app users through notifications and in-app messages, VentureBeat has learned. Details of the transaction are unknown.
Artisan is a fairly full-featured mobile marketing automation company which we covered in a recent report. The three-year-old company’s features include cohort analysis, A/B and multivariate testing, push notifications, and in-app messaging, as well as geo-targeting and optimal-time messaging.
Its claim to fame is extreme developer ease-of-use:
“We collect all user behavior from native mobile apps without any instrumentation required,” Artisan’s Marketing & Business Analytics Manager Corey Crawford told us a few months ago. “It’s all auto-instrumented … if you can tap it, we can track it,” CEO Bob Moul adds.
Tune is one of several ad-measurement companies that help companies measure the success of their advertisement campaigns, by closely tracking how users click on ads. It then gives credit to companies that help drive the most business, and allows marketers to adjust their ad spend accordingly.
“This acquisition follows a trend in mobile marketing, advertising, and attribution, and that’s to do more in a single SDK,” says VB research head John Koetsier. “Assuming Tune integrates these capabilities into its existing platform, existing customers will gain that much more insight into their users, the success or failure of their marketing campaigns, and what happens after initial user acquisition. That will all help mobile publishers to be more efficient at growing their business.”
There’s another wrinkle in this puzzle, however.
On Nov 4, Facebook, the single most important mobile user acquisition partner on the planet, plans to force third-party measurement companies to strip key device-level attribution data away from the other meta-data they provide to advertisers, essentially making it impossible for advertisers to retarget individuals who have taken certain actions.
This has sparked considerable jockeying in the industry. Appsflyer, another third-party measurement company has moved to offer advanced integration with Facebook’s API, to provide detailed ROI reports so that advertisers can measure the effectiveness of Facebook ad campaigns. VentureBeat first reported that today.
And Kochava, another third party measurement company, is set to announce tomorrow a new integration to support push and in-app messaging campaign tracking for mobile marketers, VentureBeat has learned. The feature is aimed at supporting requests from customers for an multi-channel view of both user acquisition and user re-engagement efforts in a single dashboard. Both Kochava’s CEO Charles Manning, and Appsflyer general manager Assaf Vadkin will be speaking at MobileBeat tomorrow, our event in SF focused on mobile growth.
The Nov 4 Facebook move is significant because Facebook is emerging as the biggest player in the mobile advertising industry. It has huge clout, because it has interest-graph data on more than a billion users, and advertisers target these users to drive things like application installations. Mobile advertising is set to overtake desktop advertising next year.
Now that Facebook is stripping device-level attribution data from information it provides to partners, advertisers will have to work through Facebook’s ad platform to do their targeting of Facebook users. And they’ll only be able to do so on the aggregate, or audience level, not at the direct device level. For instance, advertisers can now target every user who bought, say a $199 booster for a particular mobile game, but they won’t be able to target specific users who did so. And even if they are working with a third-party partner, that partner has to play by Facebook’s rules.
[Facebook spokesman Mike Manning has responded with the following statement:
“Our Nov. 4 policy change will have no effect on developers’ ability to (a) export post-install data from their MMPs, or (b) use such data for retargeting purposes. It only limits developers’ ability to export attribution data that Facebook provides to MMPs — data which developers are prohibited from using for ad targeting or profile building today per our Ad Policies and terms.
There will be absolutely no change to the targeting practices advertisers are allowed to do with their post-install data after the November 4th policy change goes into effect. This includes exporting post-install data directly to their MMPs, running calculations, and then using the results to generate Custom Audiences on Facebook.”]
The Facebook moves have raised concerns among advertisers that Facebook is engaged in power play. Some game companies have called it a land-grab, complaining that Facebook has suggested in private conversations that the advertisers provide massive amounts of their own data, in return for getting help from Facebook to better target users.
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Tune, itself, was dismissed by Facebook last year from participating as a third-party measurement partner for Facebook advertising. Industry sources said Facebook made the move because Tune had been too aggressive in helping advertisers do an end-run around Facebook’s advertising platform, to target users themselves.
Other sources have suggested Facebook is trying to boost its own analytics solutions at the expense of the third party measurement companies. For instance, Facebook recently made an announcement that it supports deeplinking for mobile app install ads. Deeplinking is considered powerful, because deeplinking can now allow users to follow a link straight through to buy say, a par Steve Madden shoes on a special Zappos offer, even if they haven’t downloaded the Zappos app yet. Third-party measurement companies have supported deeplinking technology. But until now, it seemed that Facebook was not sharing its deeplinking information to the third party measurement companies, an apparent sign that Facebook may be luring users to Facebook’s own analytics platform.
However, that may be about to change. Appsflyer is apparently working on a way to to do this, VentureBeat has learned, but we haven’t been able to confirm to what extent this is complete.
The Tune deal is expected to be announced in a couple of weeks. Tune’s chief executive, Peter Hamilton, declined to comment. Artisan Mobile was founded in 2010 by Scott Wasserman, and had raised $7 million in two rounds from FirstMark Capital, among others. The company’s product drives engagement by letting marketers communicate directly with app users with notifications and in-app messages, akin to competitors like Urban Airship, Appboy, and Localytics. However, the company had raised a relatively modest amount of capital, compared to other players in the industry. Urban Airship has raised $76.5 million, Appboy has raised $22 million, and Localytics has raised close to $60M, by comparison.
It’s not clear what Tune’s strategy is here. If companies like Appsflyer, Adjust and Kochava are focused on pushing quick, deep integration with other partners, such as Facebook, Tune may be moving to showcase its own competitive feature sets, such as being able to directly participate in things like messaging — though this is just conjecture.
Kochava, by contrast, is expected to announce partnerships with push and in-app messaging providers Appboy, Leanplum, Localytics and Urban Airship.
Come hear more about all this at MobileBeat tomorrow and Tuesday!