Facebook Needs To Do A Better Job Communicating Ads Manager Changes, Agencies Say

When Facebook updates Ads Manager or tests a new ad placement, agencies – and even their account reps – are sometimes the last to know.

In some cases, new features are enabled by default without any overt communication from Facebook, which can be “par for the course,” said Anita Walsh, director of social strategy at Horizon Media.

“A lot of new features are often selected by default at launch,” she said. “It’s a big part of our job to be detail-oriented.”

A lack of meaningful communication sits at the heart of the problem, said James Douglas, SVP and executive director of social media at IPG agency Society.

Although Facebook reps are in daily contact with agencies about the basics, Facebook often buries important updates in voluminous emails that don’t explicitly point out the consequence of changes or how they could affect budget allocation.

It’s an ongoing challenge for Facebook to strike the right cadence between bombarding buyers with too much information about each and every change to Ads Manager and calling out the most important updates to its platform.

But there have been times when Douglas’ team was only made aware of a change to Facebook’s ad offerings by reading about it in the trade press or from a client with questions. Such was the case when Facebook announced that it was testing pre-roll ads in Watch.

Another example: the “Automatic Placements” box in Ads Manager, which allows advertisers to expand placements beyond news feed, including on Instagram. Audience Network placements were quietly included without notice.

“We’ve had clients ask us things like, ‘When did we start buying Instant Articles?’ and we said, ‘Oh goodness, we didn’t even realize we were,’ because now it’s the default,” said Douglas. “It creates an uncomfortable situation.”

Facebook’s automatic opt-ins are a constant point of friction, said Kieley Taylor, head of paid social at GroupM.

Take targeting expansion, a feature Facebook released in 2016 that automatically broadens an advertiser’s interest-based targeting parameters beyond the specified target, if Facebook thinks it can generate better results at a lower cost.

The targeting expansion box in Ads Manager is selected by default for certain marketing objectives, like conversions and app installs, although not for others, including post-engagement campaigns and lead gen.

Taylor only found out about the feature in passing because she’s an avid reader of Facebook’s business blog.

“It’s too big of an assumption to make that we ever want something to be automatically expanded on,” she said. “And even if we want the outcome, having a box ticked by default gives me pause, because I want to understand the drivers behind the outcomes we’re seeing.”

Better Communication

To be fair, the regular tweaks Facebook makes to buying options via Ads Manager are “usually ultimately to the good and necessary for innovation,” Taylor said.

But ad buyers want more heads up when notable changes are in the offing, more transparency into their significance and the ability to test discrete placements, audience selections and other features before they’re included in a default setting.

Given GroupM’s size and how outspoken the agency has been about its desire to be informed about automatic opt-ins, updates are now being communicated “well in advance so we can provide appropriate guidance across all our teams,” Taylor said.

But smaller agencies with fewer resources also have to be kept in the loop.

Facebook and other platforms “need to provide this same level of clarity and notice to all ad buyers,” Taylor said. “Changes should be communicated with notice and allow for current activity to be ‘grandfathered’ in so teams have a window to assess and adapt to changes.”

If Douglas had his druthers, product updates would be shared at least 15 days before they’re released to give the agency time to run tests, get trained and confer with clients.

“If Facebook could pivot to more of a proactive, positive release of information,” Douglas said, “my hope is we won’t be surprised, annoyed or disappointed, but excited and interested in implementing new features.”

Facebook declined to comment on the record for this story.

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  1. Good article.

    We refer to the pre-checking, auto checking and rechecking of placement, device and audience extension by Facebook as ” Platform Fraud” We have been reporting it to them for a long time with little to no real response or action. We have seen user selectable options pre-checked and we have seen them unilaterally checked while we do other changes after upload in power editor. There should be zero tolerance for this and when it occurs full credits should be given for entire effected campaigns. This is not about communication, this should not be going on PERIOD. Honestly think ” Wells Fargo” same kind of behavior really. I have always been surprised no class action lawyers have picked up on this or these vendors would risk this.

    Here is a rule of thumb for advertisers. If the entity selling you the inventory is checking boxes for you there is a good chance it is not in your best interest. Audience network is great example especially before there publisher exclusions – think hard about that one.

    This is all part of a trend for platform providers like Google and FB to really not want advertisers using only what works best for them. They have real-time inventory that they want to monetize and they would prefer to blackbox it for you.

    Other things to watch out for in our ecosystem
    1. Google Smart Display
    2. Google Responsive Ads

    Make sure you watch these closely always remember the AI/Machine learning/algo whatever you want to call it is not yours it is being provided by the person selling you something – PAY CLOSE ATTENTION – There is 100% chance it is not in you or your clients best interest.

    For those in PE on Facebook double check this using breakdown reporting.

    For those of you using Smart Display go pull a site report now!

    For those of you using Google responsive ads – go find some of your ads in the wild.

  2. Every advertiser should ask for a placement report on where their ads are running and if you see placement you have not approved ask questions.