Everson Swears No Facebook Ad Network in the Works

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ADOTAS – “We have no plans to build an ad network,” stated Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s recently anointed vice president of global sales, at Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit yesterday during NYC Internet Week.

“I don’t believe you,” Federated founder, chairman and event MC John Battelle snapped back with a smile. And he was speaking for the majority of the audience at Federated’s most-attended conference.

With nearly 700 million users on its social network and the Facebook Like button weaved into every crevice of the web and garnering 50 million likes a day, Facebook is sitting on the motherlode of behavioral targeting data. Entering the display field, Facebook would make all the competition pale. So most of us playing in the space are just waiting for the arrival of “FaceWords.”

But Everson insisted that the idea of a display ad network had never been discussed during her time at Facebook — “There’s too much on our plates right now.”

However, another attendee nudged me and said, “Well, they may have talked about it before she arrived 11 weeks ago….”

At the moment, Facebook is more concerned with improving and innovating its display products, such as Sponsored Stories, which curiously she commented was not a long-planned ad unit. It seems the Facebook team realized they had the power to link brands and user endorsement in a display ad.

Though she wouldn’t hint at future ad units (“Sponsored Stories was just introduced!” she cried — yeah, back in January. I’ve created, like, 50 new ad units since then.), she did give some updated stats on Sponsored Stories — the brand recall rate was 68% when a friend endorsed a company through the ad unit. Everson also commented that friends were four times as likely to buy a product if they saw an endorsement.

Still, don’t expect homepage takeovers — “I don’t think users want that” — or interstitials anytime soon on the network, which could make advertisers and secondary market investors grimace. No, Everson gave the line that Facebook “wants to be a business partner” for brands’ marketing efforts.

One could argue that integrating Facebook into a campaign already is essential, but just like Facebook eventually aims for its social technology to be a core component of the Internet, it also wants that technology to be a core part of online marketing.

As Everson explained, Facebook is interested in working with companies to develop campaigns that are “social by design,” or “baking social into the experience.” Brands need to decide if people are at the core of the social marketing experience, or is the social element just “salt on french fries.” She suggested the former would witness more success.

Another conference attendee mentioned to me that Everson’s time on stage was a lot different from the former VP of Global Sales Mike Murphy, who talked at Federated’s conference the year before. While Murphy had a “canned spiel,” Everson’s outreach to the demand side seemed far more aggressive.

COO Sheryl recruited away from the top sales exec position at Microsoft after a nine-month stint. She said that her and Facebook’s relationship with Microsoft is still fine — it’s not like Microsoft can complain as Facebook is the potential savior of its revenue black hole, also known as the Internet services unit.

As with every Facebook presentation I catch, there was a lot of “RA RA RA FACEBOOK!” talk (Did you know Facebook is in the organ donation business? I was thinking about seeking out a new liver because this one is shot.) Somewhat ironically, right after toasting the social network’s numerous accomplishments, Everson commented that she was impressed with the humility at Facebook.

“At Facebook, we’re really humble about what we’re doing,” she said.

O RLY? Then again, I guess Zuck and crew could be rubbing their massive success in our faces more; it’s a fine line between being proud of your accomplishments and gluttonous gloating.

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