Facebook has offered new details about changes to the application and recertification process for its Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) program. The changes affect both existing and prospective PMDs, and are likely to reduce the number of new startups entering the fraternity of third parties sanctioned to support Facebook marketing.
Among the changes we previously noted is that new PMD applicants must have someone vouch for them before Facebook will peek under the hood. This referral could come from an existing "Ads Qualified PMD" (i.e. a PMD with the Ads badge) or someone internally at Facebook.
By way of official explanation, Facebook said in a blog post, "PMDs, across all four recognized and badged areas, should have experience in advising advertisers on media spend." It believes Ads PMDs are well positioned to prove out that experience.
In other words: We're in the ad business. Get it?
The new referral requirement also lets Facebook stem the tide of "cold calls" from marginal vendors, which has become a burden. Under the new system, Facebook's partner managers essentially outsource the PMD vetting process to existing Ads API partners.
A second key change sets higher standards to both gain and retain PMD certification -- especially with regard to Facebook's ad products. Here's a quick breakdown:
- Going forward, all PMDs must demonstrate "the ability to advise marketers on ad spend to amplify word of mouth and ensure success of brands on the platform."
- Pages PMDs only must be able to implement "basic Page and Page post insights, as well as the ability to boost Page posts with media."
- Ads PMDs only must be able to implement "basic Page and Page post insights, as well as providing clients with an external facing interface including all required features."
- Apps PMDs only must support "Facebook media, as well as providing clients with advanced app insights reporting"
- Insights PMDs only must be able to "implement ads insights if requested by clients."
Existing PMDs will have six months to get up and running with the new program requirements. Facebook pledged to provide "scaled support" to help PMDs concerned about meeting the higher certification standard.
Many partners AdExchanger spoke with are over the moon that Facebook has made this move. They're happy in part because it will lead to fewer new competitors entering the market, and in part because they say the PMD program needed better quality control.
"We see this as an incredibly healthy move on the part of Facebook to correct a damaging trend that emerged over the last few years," Jeff Dachis, CEO of Dachis Group, told AdExchanger after the changes were first leaked. "Facebook's explosive growth in users since the launch of the PMD program triggered a parallel explosion in the number of PMDs on the site, the result has been diminishing quality among the firms that have the designation. This drop in quality sorely needed to be addressed." (Read more PMD reactions.)
A potential concern with the new rules has to do with bias against startups -- in particular aspirants to the Ads PMD badge. Facebook's requirement that new PMDs be referred by "Ads Qualified PMDs" sort of begs the question, how does a prospective Ads partner get in? It seems unlikely that an existing Ads PMD would refer a potential competitor. Could that work against innovation in the program?
We asked Facebook for a few more specifics. Our questions and its answers below:
Under the new rules, Ads badge holders must offer "basic Page and Page post insights, as well as providing clients with an external facing interface including all required features." What does "required features" refer to?
"PMDs and companies with Ads API have access to a doc that list all those features (you need to be in the PMD group to see it). There are 20+ required features, including most of the ads products we launched since we open the Ads API."
Does Facebook anticipate a reduction in the rate at which new companies are added to the PMD program? If so, can you quantify?
"We can't really speculate on that since we're just now making these updates, but the goal is to get more qualified applicants early in the process, and this is reflected in the updates we've made to the application guidelines."
How will existing PMDs prove they "get it"? Is there a system in place?
"We regularly review our existing partners to ensure we're maintaining high standards across the board. We're building in a 6-month time period of for the existing teams to re-prioritize against these new guidelines. We also do other things like offer webinars and host PMD summits for face-to-face time."
It seems unlikely that an existing Ads PMD would refer a potential competitor. Does this mean Facebook views the existing Ads Qualified PMDs as adequate?
"We expect referrals for Ads API partners to come in through our employees who work with a broad range of partners, and also through brands working with current PMDs. There is also opportunity for the Ads API partners to recommend their current partners who specialize in other areas, like Insights for example."
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