IBM is in a quandary. In a business world that is increasingly built in the cloud, the company has missed its revenue targets for eight of the last nine quarters due to losses from its hardware and conventional software businesses, despite success with the likes of Watson and SoftLayer. As a result, the company has been aggressively expanding its cloud-based offerings. Its latest salvo? A partnership with Facebook to help marketers serve better ads to the social network's billions of users.
The partnership, which launched today, uses IBM technology to help brands target ads on Facebook's web and mobile products, and is part of IBM Research’s ThinkLab R&D project. The partnership is designed to help brands "more accurately identify which of their customers are among the 1.44 billion people active on Facebook and surface correlations between their interests and their interactions across multiple channels," according to Jay Henderson, director at IBM Commerce. The company will use both its Marketing Cloud platform for the project, as well as its new Journey Designer tech, which deploys ads tailored to individual customers in real time.
According to Henderson, talks between Facebook and IBM began several months ago. In an email to Fast Company, Henderson added that "IBM will work together with Facebook to help marketers share highly relevant content with their customers in a way that goes far beyond typical social advertising. IBM's powerful marketing automation and customer analytics will draw deep insights about consumers. Combined with other pertinent information such as purchase history, demographics, location, and more, this enables businesses to engage with customers in context with their own unique preferences. And marketers can now also analyze customer journeys across channels—including interactions that occurred in Facebook."
Henderson emphasized that IBM and its brand partners would in no way receive any data from Facebook. Instead, IBM would help brands syndicate their existing advertisements and analytics onto Facebook’s ad platform. In a case study offered by IBM, an athletic shoe retailer could use Facebook’s audience segmentation tools to find customers who post about athletic shoes on the social network, and then leverage local weather and recreational information to build individual promotions aimed at each customer.