Home Online Advertising Meta’s Ad Platform Glitches Spur Q4 Angst – And A Customer Service Fee Scheme

Meta’s Ad Platform Glitches Spur Q4 Angst – And A Customer Service Fee Scheme

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The Facebook advertising platform has been beset by glitches and miscues all year.

Budgets empty in the wee hours of the morning. Campaign creative is sometimes arbitrarily rejected. In some cases, entire accounts have been temporarily removed without explanation.

But advertisers who hoped that the bugginess would sort itself out by the holiday season are only discovering coal in their stockings.

New problems are cropping up, many of which are being caused by account service issues.

In response, AdExchanger has learned that a small group of now former Facebook employees took fees in return for greasing the wheels to reinstate advertiser accounts.

Accountable

That’s not to say there aren’t still plenty of software issues, mind you. Last week, Instagram accidentally deleted, suspended or banned millions of accounts. The problem was on such a large scale that it was widely suspected to be the result of a bot-type account purge. It was an error, though, and the accounts have been restored.

But that was a relatively rare example of a bug affecting the consumer app, and those account removals were reversed within a couple days.

It’s not always so easy for advertisers to figure out what’s happening with their suspended accounts.

And so, earlier this summer, at least three Meta employees were fired when it was discovered that they had been working with ad agency and ad-buying consultants who were soliciting fees from DTC brand advertisers and other small agency buyers to undo account or campaign removals and expedite reinstatements, four sources with knowledge of the matter told AdExchanger.

Those Facebook customer service firings took place over the summer and are unrelated to more recent glitches on the platform over the past couple of weeks. But the issue is representative of how advertisers on Facebook are straining to find ways to address account issues because the wheels of normal service channels grind too slowly.

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The fees were typically in the low thousands of dollars per ticket, sources said.

A Meta spokesperson told AdExchanger that the company won’t comment on specifics about former employees.

The spokesperson also said that the company couldn’t identify whether any account suspensions or bans were related to the fee scheme witnessed or experienced by AdExchanger’s sources.

It’s worth noting that the fee-for-unauthorized service issue probably isn’t directly related to broader bugginess on the platform. Facebook employees were taking fees from a small number of DTC sellers working with a handful of consultants or specialist ad-buyers. Some of the most knowledgeable people in the space were wholly unaware of the scandal unfolding over the summer based on AdExchanger’s enquiries.

But it is yet another example of general dysfunction on Facebook’s ad platform as bugs and customer service issues persist across the board – teeing up what could make for a frustrating holiday season for Facebook advertisers.

The buggiest time of the year

To be fair, October and November are often buggy months as platforms rush to build and test features before a code freeze around Black Friday, according to David Herrmann, who runs a DTC advertising consultancy.

But that’s of little consolation for suspended accounts or accounts with misfiring campaigns. What’s more troubling, however, are issues that could trip up an advertiser’s big holiday shopping push.

Milo McMahon, founder and CEO of Outdoor eCommerce, a boutique DTC advertising and growth consultancy, said he was shocked to discover last week that new campaigns on Facebook’s platform were set to automatically turn off after one month by default.

Sounds innocuous on the surface. Shouldn’t campaigns stop running after a set time period rather that continuing in perpetuity unless explicitly told to stop spending?

Perhaps. But that’s not the way the platform has worked in the past. And Meta would typically have done major outreach, to say the least, if a new platform policy defaulted all new campaigns to stop right in the midst of the post-Thanksgiving shopping week.

According to McMahon, another glitch prevents some campaigns being set up right now from increasing spend. Instead, the platform simply reverts back to the original test budget.

Both McMahon and another DTC account operator who asked to remain anonymous also cited another glitch last week, this one affecting Facebook Shops, that would mark sales on the platform as “on hold” for fraud review.

McMahon said he’s a big advocate of Facebook Shops, which Facebook is incentivizing with ad discounts because the platform wants more purchase data of its own. But that fraud review glitch, which holds sales for a day or two before releasing them, makes it difficult for DTC consultants and agencies to advocate Facebook Shops to their brand clients, who aren’t enthused about entrusting their holiday strategies to a buggy platform.

If a brand is convinced to test Facebook Shops and its sales are put on hold for a few days, the fraud suspicion rankles and the delay makes the channels less trustworthy. Brands need to get people their purchases on time, especially during the holidays.

The sunny side?

On the plus side, Meta has a strong incentive to fix the recent bugginess.

People are used to “glitches” that benefit the platform. When a bug caused Facebook to miscount video views and average watch times, nobody was surprised that the error misattributed video views in Facebook’s favor.

But these latest bugs, like campaigns being held to small test budgets, Facebook Shops sales being put on hold and new ad campaigns set to turn off after 30 days, are obvious revenue dampeners for Meta.

A week after these glitches were reported to Meta customer service, AdExchanger’s sources followed up to say that most of the issues had been addressed.

But that doesn’t mean these are the last bugs we’ll see.

“To me, it’s evidence that they sincerely do not have control over the beast right now,” McMahon said.

Regardless, Meta’s platform bugs aren’t killing ad effectiveness or engagement on the platform.

Results are strong right, Herrmann said, and user numbers are pretty high, despite the general news of Facebook’s unpopularity.

“We’re seeing pretty strong results from Meta,” he wrote in an email to AdExchanger. “Not 2016 [to] 2018 levels … but certainly not anything close to a ghost town.”

And other ad buyers say they’re optimistic.

Phil Kiel, managing director of ecommerce agency Hello Earth, said he feels positive overall about Meta’s platform updates this year. New campaign types like Advantage+ are trending up and platform attribution and performance has improved since the dark early days of Apple’s iOS 14.5 update.

Still, DTC advertisers and Meta platform power-users would like to see more attention paid to the once-great flywheel.

“If you look at the resources pouring into Magic Spaceland, it worries me,” McMahon said, making a skeptical reference to Meta’s metaverse investments. “I would want to get a handle on the core platform.”

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