How Facebook is solving the digital advertising quality problem

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Quality pays in a broken ecosystem. This is true in mobile, where it’s hard not to see that the App Store’s walled garden is a key factor in iOS’s success. In a world where users want safety and quality that is on par with Apple’s products, it makes sense for all 3rd parties to be well vetted. The same goes for digital advertising, which we know is fundamentally broken.

What can one do to really fix the digital advertising ecosystem, if this ecosystem is built on shaky foundations? What if only another walled garden could be the solution?

Exchanges are a necessary evil for supply and demand to meet at scale, but they are the Google Play of ad inventory. Very large, partly safe, partly not – and always hard to know which.

Google controls a lot of what’s happening in online advertising, and most of the qualitative part revolves around its search product. DSPs and the like tap into a broken system, and will probably never completely succeed in finding a solution that satisfies all parties: publishers, users, exchanges, and ad platforms. Many players with very different interests are deeply involved in this system. Therefore, the probability that fraud will stop is quite small.

It’s the same story with mobile ad networks, which are known for having an inventory that can largely be certified as fraudulent, or at best, inefficient and intrusive.

Why Facebook is the qualitative alternative

So, who’s left that can provide an Apple-like quality at scale if not Facebook? You might think that Facebook has little chance to be the solution to everything, and you’re right. But with one of the best tech acquisitions and integrations in recent years, Instagram, Facebook has proven that their walled garden has an immense value. They qualify and match users across devices to serve them reasonable ads across a constellation of placements. This is impossible for other players relying on statistical models rather than on actual people. They will have much lower match rates than Facebook. Also, these matches will not be strict since they are based on assumptions.

Matching users cross-device and showing them ads throughout their digital journey really does sound like the mission of ad exchanges and ad platforms. However, with Facebook the level of quality and scale is unprecedented, thanks to their non-reliance on fingerprinting technologies.

What matters is people, who they are, what they like to engage with, and how to reach them in a safe, controlled and persistent environment.

Facebook can reach most of the worthy audiences in top-tier countries. Now the question is: how to reach those people without impacting the core product, or disrupting their digital journey?

Very likely with multiple placements that are tied to this walled garden, and according to common rules (e.g. frequency capping, opt-out, reporting system) that ensure ads are the least intrusive, and the most relevant possible.

The Facebook “Family of Apps”

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Facebook Audience Network was Facebook’s first shot at this, and it’s getting bigger every day. Instagram was a massive addition to the Facebook ad inventory, and it has been an ongoing revolution ever since. Optimized Placement was introduced in 2016, and now Facebook is extending the amount of placements that are not directly tied to the flagship app. Think Instant Articles, instream video (Facebook Live is a very specific product) and of course Messenger.

Since ads are going to be shown in Messenger (currently in test in Thailand and Australia), it means that Facebook has more opportunities to reach their users without overwhelming them on one single placement; From a user perspective, publishers are the owners of the ads they show, therefore, Facebook ads shown in app X are app X ads, not Facebook’s. With Messenger, 1 billion users will soon become available at other moments of their day.

That is why one of the key drivers for growth at Facebook, in terms of ad inventory, is probably not the growth of Facebook’s core product user base, but the overall growth of the Facebook “Family of apps” across all placements.

The Family of apps includes Facebook, Whatsapp, Messenger, Facebook Audience Network and Instagram.

At MakeMeReach, the Facebook Audience Network is enabled by default, so that all mobile campaigns benefit from this additional inventory. If you wanted the same scale with traditional mobile ad networks, you would have very little quality. This is not even mentioning the time it would take you to manually launch these campaigns across the top 10 (and I’m being nice not saying 5) sources!

Optimized Placement: when algorithms make your ads more efficient

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Optimized Placement (aka Placement Optimization) is often an overlooked solution when creating Facebook campaigns. Facebook delivery algorithms choose where a said impression gets delivered, based on its chance to achieve the advertiser’s goal at the best cost.

As the amount of placement increases within the Facebook Family of Apps, the number of opportunities for showing an ad is exploding, and real efficiency can only be reached through impression-level automation. That is why Optimized Placement is key for the future of media buying across the Facebook ecosystem, and why you should leverage it in your campaigns!

Facebook is still a relatively new player in distributed ad delivery, and now is the time for the social network to show that as the inventory scales, quality remains – not unlike what’s happening with the App Store. The current growth of the Family of Apps and the evolution of Facebook ads really highlight how superior control pays out in this industry where the lack of rules can result in massive fraud and in the rise of ad blocking. These two issues are not affecting Facebook, thanks to the structure and subsequent quality of its inventory.

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