Facebook’s New Dynamic Ads for App Installs Score Big Successes in Test Campaigns

Personalizing ads based on past web browsing

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Facebook is launching its "dynamic ads" for mobile app installs which could help target people who might actually download an app—and who might actually also want to use it. 

Facebook's latest ads product—which officially launches today after it was announced earlier this year—will be able to help app marketers serve ads to people who have recently browsed products and might be interested in trying out a brand's mobile app. The dynamic ads personalize themselves for each user based on which products someone has recently browsed for online.

The company points to research from Gartner, which said smartphone sales last year rose 10 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the first three quarters. Facebook said App Store installs peak in December but still are strong through February, but only 6 percent of people still use an app after 30 days.

"The holiday period aside, app businesses are also facing a very unique challenge, and that challenge is that app businesses are no longer looking to just get discovery," Christine Di Martini, app ads marketing lead at Facebook, said in an interview. "It's not that it's not important, but the fact that it's getting discovered by the right people and by the people who will use your app and use it over time is becoming increasingly important to their business."

While the ads unit is rolling out globally today, Facebook has been testing the product with various brands over the past few months. In one test campaign, Facebook worked with Hotels.com to find users as they were planning and upcoming trip. Di Martini said download frequency increased while cost-per-install decreased.

In another test related to app event optimization—a way of targeting users who are likely to tact action within an app after downloading—Facebook worked with Zynga to drive downloads for the mobile gamemaker's Wizard of Oz Slots game. Early results showed the personalized app install ads doubled the conversion-to-player rate and increased installs by 60 percent. (Overall, return on ad spend for Zynga was 4.5 times higher than before.)

"Businesses want to find people who are likely to install and then purchase, or install and then book a trip or install and then reach another level in the game," Di Martini said. "They really want to know that they're finding value in their app beyond the install."

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.