By Bryan Noguchi
During a client meeting we were reviewing some positive performance results we’d seen on a Facebook and Instagram campaign. One of our clients casually asked, “Do we trust Meta?” To which most of the meeting participants sort of smirked and nodded, and I quickly rejoined with, “We trust their data.”
What I didn’t cop to is that we’ve sort of been forced to trust it, and other sources affected by the rise of privacy-first initiatives, and even more shocking tome is that I’m not even convinced that’s a bad thing. But there are caveats.
Agencies have had plenty of reasons to put themselves into near-panic frenzies over the past year:
Basically, in a year in which the sky was supposed to have fallen on advertisers, so far, it kind of hasn’t. And targeting on Facebook and Instagram is one of the areas where it was really supposed to hurt. Admittedly, for some it has hurt, but for most, the pain level has been tied to how much we want to trust Meta.
To trust the algorithm or not? Studies show the tipping scales of this debate, but for now, let’s dissect the idea of “trusting the algorithm”.
One of the first things we should clear up is the idea that Facebook is somehow less targeted now because of the changes it’s made: it’s not. It’s just that advertisers can’t control or see how the targeting is achieved. At six months in, the truth is my team is not seeing significant performance degradations of any kind due to Meta targeting changes. As I mentioned, some advertiser categories have been hit harder than others by the changes, especially certain non-profits, employment advertisers and housing advertisers just to name some obvious ones. But it’s important to keep in mind that we still have a lot of tactics at our disposal:
The ancillary tactics above assume that there will be less impression waste and that the extra layer(s) of intelligence will increase efficiencies against your backend metrics. This seems to hold true for B2B programs, where business type, job function and other granular factors make big differences and where even large cost premiums can still net you far better efficiencies on Meta platforms than on dedicated B2B networks (LinkedIn), but we’re not convinced that the premium offset is as great in broader B2C applications where cost-per efficiencies on Facebook + Instagram were already excellent and out-of-pocket costs have remained relatively low.
Nothing is truer here than the old maker saying of “if you can’t open it, you don’t own it” but then that’s the point:
“Meta is counting on you not even wanting to open the housing when your campaigns are delivering well. The option to toggle on ‘Detailed Targeting Expansion’ is probably the ultimate expression of your trust in the algorithm where you allow Facebook to hunt for performance outside of your audience definition.”
And honestly, it seems like it does this well…
“While 99% of consumers agree that privacy is important online, only 50% feel confident in the security of their online data.” (Integral Ad Science, 2022)
In 2022, there is more capability for data collection and consumption than ever before. Alternatively, consumers are provided with more and more ways to opt out of tracking across all devices, and experiment with ad-blockers to limit the data that’s available to collect.
"In fact, “67% of consumers agree they are more vigilant about their online data and privacy than ever before."
While this is a positive change in data privacy, it can feel like more and more obstacles landing in the way of a once-clear path to success. The future of privacy-first marketing is dependent on strategists’ abilities to overcome these obstacles and reach their target audiences regardless.
When you think about it, it makes sense that we’re not seeing significant efficiency losses due to platform targeting changes. When advertising impressions are virtually unlimited (which they essentially are on Facebook) and actions (clicks or visits) are the commodity (not the impressions), then some traditional measures of media efficacy (CPM, Frequency) retain only peripheral relevance to the advertiser while key creative performance indicators like CTR tend to gain in importance.
"In fact, CTR is now our primary clue as to how the algorithm is performing with regard to audience delivery, in ways that it historically may not have been."
The algorithm is going to leverage the creative manifestation of your understanding of your target to find results.
From a planning perspective, while it’s true that audience definitions are starting to look more like guard rails than crosshairs, from a holistic campaign point of view, audience really, really does still matter a lot. In fact, the audience intelligence you bring to bear from outside of digital and social platforms is crucial because what you understand about your audiences now needs to be broken out of its media targeting silo and leveraged to inform more than just your ad placement: it needs to be infused throughout your messaging and creative executions.
Our job is not to game the algorithm –our job is to find resonance: that sliver of overlap among context (where the ad appears), creative and audience. There’s more alchemy to this than you’d think, and this has always been the job of a full-service agency. We just have to remind ourselves that the algorithms aren’t substitutes for our humanity. Discover how Ideas Collide continually works alongside an ever-changing algorithm, not against it in our Super Charging Socials series.
Staying competitive in an ever-changing landscape has always been an integral part of a successful marketing strategy. Researching and preparing for strategy-crushing changes to platforms, diversifying tactics and sources in which we collect consumer data, and finding resonance between all elements either in and out of our control is the job of a full-service agency like Ideas Collide. When you have experts in all areas of marketing, we always find ways to succeed and exceed performance, regardless of seemingly panic-inducing industry changes.
Let Ideas Collide help you elevate your social and content strategy. Let’s connect!
Director of Media Planning + Strategy, Bryan Noguchi has been with Ideas Collide for 3 years and is trusted expert across all forms of paid media with over 20 years’ experience. His articles have appeared in MediaPost, AdExchanger and the Huffington Post. Bryan has moderated or appeared on OMMA panels in NY, LA and SF. He is based out of our Portland office.