Facebook ads may soon be more relevant to users thanks to a new alliance with IBM. Announced Wednesday, the partnership allows IBM Commerce's 35,000 clients, including some of the top Fortune 500 companies, to personalize marketing campaigns with user data furnished by the social network.
When Deepak Advani, who has worked in several positions at IBM since 1998, became general manager of IBM Commerce in January, he made the rounds of IBM's marketing clients, asking them how the company could help improve the advertising experience. "A lot of our clients were focused on better understanding their customers instead of just spamming everyone," Advani said.
As an example, Advani noted during an interview at IBM's New York headquarters Tuesday, that his daughter -- a student at the University of Pennsylvania -- had called him the day before to share an email she had received to attend a monster truck rally.
"'Why would they want me to go to see monster trucks?' she asked me," Advani said. "Our clients want to better understand their customers. And many of the clients we talked to said the customers they are targeting are spending a lot of time on Facebook."
As a result, Advani inked a deal with Facebook that integrates the companies' marketing capabilities. Firms that use IBM's Marketing Cloud to create and manage campaigns previously had access to data such as location, purchase history and weather. Now, with Facebook's Custom Audiences insights, clients can integrate into that information package social-network data such as likes, demographics and comments.
Companies will also be able to see which clients are active on Facebook and can then better-target ads on the social network or through other methods such as email campaigns. A Facebook representative said that this partnership is not changing much on its platform besides what it hopes will be an improvement in the relevance of ads. The firm does not have plans to increase ad space, and this data partnership will not affect Facebook's own advertising clients.
Additionally, Facebook will be the first partner to join IBM's new initiative called IBM Research ThinkLab. The collaboration brings together experts at IBM -- and now Facebook -- to consult with clients on commerce projects, such as inventory analytics. A Facebook representative said it is currently unclear how many of its employees will be involved and how much time they will spend on this partnership.
"What we're doing in this initiative is taking on commerce-related projects. We're bringing our that into a clientcentric initiative on a more regular basis," Advani said.
Indeed, the New York offices of IBM and Facebook are only a block apart, which Advani noted could make in-person meetings with clients convenient for both parties.
Meanwhile, the marketing reach will extend worldwide.
Recently, Facebook has been increasing its own on-site commerce efforts. At the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in March, the company announced Business on Messenger -- a service that will allow businesses and customers to communicate and receive updates on ordering status via the social network's messaging app.