Facebook Reorgs PMD Program, Adding Agencies And More Partner Categories

bye-bye-badgesFacebook is unraveling its preferred marketing developer (PMD) program, its platform for organizing and referring key partners to prospective advertisers. In its place will be a new classification system, called simply Facebook Marketing Partners (FMP, for the acronym-addicted), with no badges but with a list of nine “specialties” – including ad tech, content marketing, and data providers – designed to highlight specific competencies.

Among the most significant changes: Facebook will dump its strategic marketing partner (sPMD) designation, at one time a recognition of all-around mastery of Facebook’s toolset for marketers, as well as an unspoken “pat on the back” for vendors driving significant spend to the Facebook platform.

But over time the sPMD badge became an “opaque signal,” in Facebook’s words. It came to signify that a partner is “good,” without answering “what at?” Companies currently basking in the sPMD spotlight will be relocated to other specialty buckets.

“We felt like the ‘S’ had served a tremendous purpose for a while,” said Blake Chandlee, VP global partnerships at Facebook. “The message was, these people are good at what they do. We could add a whole bunch of people, but then it destroys the original intent, which was to help clients understand who can help them with specific needs.”

In the end, getting to “specific needs” required a system of nine specializations. They are:

  • Community management
  • Media buying
  • Measurement
  • Content marketing
  • Ad technology
  • Facebook Exchange (FBX)
  • Audience data providers
  • Audience onboarding
  • SMB solutions

Beginning in 2015, these specializations (not “badges,” Facebook is quick to say) will replace the current six-bucket system around Ads, Apps, Pages, Insights, FBX, and sPMD. In addition to vanquishing sPMDs, Facebook will no longer hold a place for Apps (a relic of the days when marketers would develop and promote their own games or other interactive experiences on the platform) in its marketer ecosystem. Any companies developing app-like experiences on Facebook will henceforth interact with the platform side of the business.

Notably, the new taxonomy will open its arms to ad agencies for the first time with a new category called “media buying.” Facebook says it will certify media buying agencies, performance-driven agencies, and ad tech companies with a strong focused on managed services  (as opposed to a technology focus).

Additionally, “content marketing” is showing up for the first time, not surprising given the surge of momentum behind native advertising.

And, in another noteworthy change, Facebook is roping in partners with a focus on applying first and third party data (offline-to-online data onboarding, third party data aggregation).

“The feedback from marketers is that the program has gotten really big. It’s now used all over the world,” Chandlee said. “The original concept was ad tech. We’re now going to bubble up partners that are the most relevant for the client and what they’re trying to accomplish. The best and most innovative companies will be bubbled up, versus the biggest.”

Laura O’Shaughnessy, CEO at strategic PMD SocialCode, welcomed the changes as a necessary evolution for the Facebook platform and an opportunity to shine in specific areas. She said the sPMD badge has not been a major business driver for SocialCode.

“The way people make decisions about marketing technology is similar to how people make decisions about which car or washing machine to buy,” O’Shaughnessy said. “They seek out referrals. Then they look and see the data and the results. At this point, the data is all very clear and transparent as to what works and what’s not.”

It’s fair to ask, does the PMD ecosystem still matter? After all, what major marketer doesn’t have a Facebook strategy in place? Is a “directory” of certified partners even necessary?

PMDs AdExchanger spoke with say yes. Even where it isn’t the primary factor in a marketer’s vendor selection, they see it as an important organizing principle for Facebook’s partner efforts.

“This tool is as much for providing clarity internally for Facebook as externally,” said Liam Doyle, VP and GM of advertising products at Salesforce.com. He added, “A lot of brands and agencies want to be objective and they want to find their own partners and do their own exploration. Similarly whether they do it through the website or reach out to consultants, the [Marketing Partner system] a way of then filtering in a clear and concise way, and saying, ‘This is the subset of partners that suit our criteria.'”

And, Doyle believes the new setup will create a quality drive.

“The criteria for getting these specialties will be very high – it’ll be very clear who is best in class,” Doyle said.


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