Facebook has raised the velvet rope to let more of its real-time bidding partners into the News Feed, and by many accounts the response rates are stunning. But some technical and ad quality issues still need to be ironed out.
Beta partner TellApart says click-through rates for Facebook Exchange ads in the News Feed are as much as 80 times higher than right-rail ads. Said another way, an advertiser could buy News Feed ad space at 1/80th the volume of Facebook's "Standard" right-rail ads and still get the same total click volume in the two venues.
But a total integration of FBX with the News Feed will take time, and advertisers have much to learn about designing retargeting ads that speak to the content mindset of Facebook users.
The first (and most easily solved) issue revolves around robust dynamic creative personalization, which is not yet possible in the News Feed.
Today, Facebook's Standard (i.e. right-rail) ads support third-party creative decisioning and let advertisers swap out a number of creative variables. Those variables include Title, Body, Link, Image and View Tags. All of these can be decisioned when an advertiser bids, and then rendered when the winning impression is served.
That level of creative customization is not yet available for News Feed ads (called Link Page Post Ads) since all ads purchased using Facebook's native interfaces or its ads API must be pre-uploaded. This is more a production headache than anything else. Facebook imposes a limit of 50,000 ads in an account, notes TellApart CEO Josh McFarland.
"That's a lot. We'll be able to load 80% of the catalog of Nieman Marcus into that," he says.
But there is a limitation in that advertisers can't swap out the copy or pricing in an ad based on factors such as a customer quality score. So a retailer might want to offer a 10% discount to one customer and not another, which is hard if not impossible to do in the News Feed today.
The way Facebook sees it, this is "under the hood" stuff that shouldn't effect advertiser campaigns greatly. It told AdExchanger in a statement:
"There are tactics that can only be accomplished with real-time creative, such as dynamic pricing or time-based deals, but the vast majority of advertisers and campaigns perform well in either scenario…News Feed without real-time dynamic creative is proving to be so strong that it overshadows standard ads on the right-hand side."
McFarland sounds a similar note. While he says TellApart can't do real-time creative, the results it has seen with real-time product matching make it easily worth the wait until the issue is resolved.
How long will that be? Two sources with whom AdExchanger spoke put the wait at three to four months, so advertisers can probably look forward to truly real-time optimization of pricing and other creative elements by around September – close to the first anniversary of FBX's official launch.
Another issue with FBX in the News Feed has to do with serving ad content that will appeal to users, spark social actions, and stay on the good side of Facebook's ad quality police. For obvious reasons, Facebook keeps its ranking algorithms secret, just as Google does, but they include factors like click-through rate, landing page quality, and negative user actions such as hiding ads or blocking advertisers.
Partners have little insight into how those decisions are made, but they are important factors in light of the relatively small total impression volume and more hastily enforced quality restrictions.
But early tests suggest these ads can engage users in a powerful way.
TellApart shared the below screenshot from a FBX News Feed ad it placed on behalf of One King's Lane. The ad received 53 likes, 23 shares and a number of comments. That's not a huge number, by the standards of a Promoted Page Post ad, but for a narrowly segmented retargeting campaign with a tiny number of overall paid media impressions, TellApart considers it a big success.
McFarland notes that these actions caused the RTB ad to propogate further through the social graph, just as any native ad format would. That organic sharing brings a level of "earned" media that hasn't existed in the retargeting space before now.
"It has characteristics of content," he says.
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