Facebook, Nielsen to ask users about display ads

Short polls will gauge whether display ads are effective, letting marketers fine-tune their campaigns

Facebook is partnering with Nielsen on using a system that gathers feedback about whether online display ads are influencing Web users.

The system, which is called Nielsen Brand Lift, will be introduced at an advertising conference on Tuesday in New York by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer.

The system, which is launching with some test partners this week in the U.S., is intended to give advertisers a better feel if their marketing investments in display ads are working. Facebook plans to offer it to all advertisers within a few months.

Nielsen BrandLift would be able to poll users about display ads, and Facebook would be able to supply that data, as well as data from people who didn't see the ad, back to advertisers.

The system uses "opt-in" polls, which consist of one- or two-question surveys, on Facebook's home page the companies said. The polls will be slotted into the spot where sponsored content appears.

Hundreds of polls will be conducted over the next few months, but the frequency will be limited to ensure no one is polled too often. Also, no personal information will be collected.

Since social-networking platforms are usually free, the great hope is that the platforms will be a new way to reach consumers through advertising. But it has been difficult for sites to turn a profit.

Facebook, the world's largest such network with 300 million regular users, has been perhaps the most successful. It has had some success with display and other advertising, announcing last week that it was cash flow positive.

According to Nielsen figures, Facebook had the fourth-largest unique audience in the U.S. among all Web properties for August 2009, with more than 103 million users.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Internet advertising revenues total $23.4 billion for 2008, 10.6 percent more than 2007.

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