Home Commerce ’Tis The Season For Meta’s Ad Platform Glitches

’Tis The Season For Meta’s Ad Platform Glitches


For many, the holidays start with the post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend. Before then, Christmas music in a store is premature; afterward, it’s expected.

For me, holiday traditions begin in late October, when the Meta ad platform goes haywire.

Q4 is off to a particularly rough start, said Rok Hladnik, managing partner of the social and ecommerce agency Flat Circle. “This year reminds me of 2018,” he said.

For those who observe the annual ritual of Facebook’s autumn platform malfunctions, 2018 recalls painful memories of a full-on meltdown right up to Black Friday, with many ad buyers locked out of accounts entirely or campaigns being disabled.

Those dark premonitions come about because one problem agencies have had in the past couple of weeks is basic Meta account access.

Why is this still happening?!

Shouldn’t Meta, and Facebook before that, have figured out how to run the ad platform during the holiday season without going off the rails?

And while, yes, this should be resolved, there are important caveats to consider.

For one, the Meta ad platform is swamped every year during the holidays because that’s when its capacity is stretched. Every advertiser and agency is active on the platform.

Amazon has had Prime Day outages; retailer sites crash on Black Friday; Netflix lagged when it tried live television.

The problem for Meta, though, isn’t just heightened capacity. Its engineers are also tinkering like mad in October and early November, before the company halts all platform updates for fear of disturbing big-spending Q4 campaigns, Hladnik said. Any product launches must be out the door this week or shelved until next year.


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The company is also fine-tuning its machine-learning algorithm in the lead-up to the Black Friday weekend, which causes big shake-ups for ad accounts, he said.

The cold start conundrum

Meta ads consultant Jon Loomer surfaced a note being sent to ad accounts that, beginning this week, the platform will prompt users to enable “greater daily budget flexibility,” which increases how far over their daily budget the platform is allowed to spend. Meta’s algorithm is allowed to spend up to 25% more than an advertiser’s daily budget cap, and the new rule pushes it up to 75%.

Also this week, Meta announced new creator and ad products, including a new Instagram tie-in that lets creators boost Stories posts as ads by brands.

Those are two examples of products being honed on the back-end before the holidays, which could cascade into the front-end in the form of inexplicable bugs.

The Q4 advertising surge is especially difficult, too, because it’s all shopping product sales.

“Until you’ve put millions of merchants through a cold start [the ecommerce industry term for setting up an online seller with product catalogs, pricing controls, inventory warehouse feeds and the like], you’re not really going to know what you’re doing,” said Ben Rey, chief revenue officer of the ecommerce ad agency Teikametrics.

Meta experiences ad platform bugs in part because the Q4 season means many cold starts. This also applies to TikTok, which has similar platform errors, according to three social media ad buyers, though TikTok isn’t critical to ecommerce businesses like Facebook and Instagram.

Where are the elves?

Exacerbating the problem, Meta has cut back account services, especially for smaller merchants and ecommerce sellers.

Big agency buyers and well-known brands still have account execs who get back to them and communicate changes, said David Herrmann, a commerce and DTC advertising consultant. “But I think internally Meta reps are even less well-versed in the ads manager than ever before,” he added.

Hladnik said his agency business has experienced the same.

Meta refocused on account services after an ad platform mishap this year exposed how thin the human services had become following multiple rounds of layoffs. Many big-spending advertisers couldn’t get a hold of a human rep – only the useless new customer service chatbot.

And while the service has improved, “even the higher-level reps are mostly clueless about what’s happening in the back-end,” Hladnik said.

It can be hard for reps to sort out account issues, though, he added, because the glitches and corresponding repairs roll out in waves. Which accounts are and aren’t affected is inconsistent, too, since Meta tests new products in batches of users and accounts.

Relatively small advertisers that don’t have a consultant or growth marketer in the trenches of the Meta account every day may not even notice a glitch. By the time they look back on Q4, the in-platform results will be neatly ironed out.

“But agencies and performance advertising types who look at the numbers every day,” Hladnik said, “we see when it’s a rollercoaster and the system isn’t making sense.”

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