LinkedIn has long insisted that it's exempt from the common wisdom that social-network ads will never make much money: its affluent user base of networking-happy business professionals can rake in more high-end advertisers and charge more for impressions.
To that end, the company announced on Monday the debut of an ad network, the "LinkedIn Audience Network," that enables other sites to run LinkedIn's ads.
Like most social-network advertising plans, the LinkedIn Audience Network focuses on targeting. But in LinkedIn's case, targeting doesn't mean pinpointing favorite movies or TV shows, but rather job title or market niche. It's already been serving targeted ads on its site and says demand is so high that the company will start serving those ads on third-party sites.
"Whenever someone visits LinkedIn, a cookie will be placed on their browser, which will identify them as a LinkedIn member when they visit a partner site," TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld explained in a post describing LinkedIn's strategy. "Personally identifying information will be removed, but members will be grouped into different, targetable categories. As with similar ad-network targeting by Yahoo and Google, anyone will be able to opt out of this program."
LinkedIn groups its members (the current count is about 27 million) into targeting categories called "InCrowds," with profiles like "corporate executive" and "IT professional." Advertisers on the LinkedIn Audience Network have the option of targeting any one of these, or to create their own.
"The message we hear from advertisers is simple: they want mass reach against specific segments of decision-making professionals, and they want their ads to appear in quality environments," LinkedIn director of ad sales Steve Patrizi said in a release Monday. "The LinkedIn Audience Network offers advertisers one of the most accurate audience data sets available on the Web, along with the confidence of knowing that their brands will only appear on sites with high editorial standards."
Here's what I want to know: does LinkedIn have an "InCrowd" called "politician," and does it display ads for escort services?