Its no surprise the pandemic changed things and drastically altered consumer behavior. Net new DTC strategies emerged from the empty stores across the globe and online shoppability became a major lifeline for brands looking to make it. Talk about collapsing the funnel.
In a separate, but concurrent, timeframe, Apple announced and implemented its App Tracking Transparency framework which severely limited the data that Meta could harness from its users. Given that these signals were the lifeblood for the platform’s algorithmic effectiveness, this update drastically limited the way Meta could now target, optimize, and ultimately measure out on performance.
The below product updates and execution standards reflect a reaction to this major transcendence and a re-writing of a playbook that became seemingly obsolete overnight.
The Future of Product
With cookies deprecating and new technology emerging, Meta has shifted focus from cookie-based signal strategy to harnessing the power of AI and machine learning to fuel the future of its ad platform. Machine learning thrives on automation, leading to increased consolidation within the Ads Platform to allow Meta to maximize its ability to be personalized – all without using personal consumer data.
The most immediate representation of this is the Meta Advantage Suite. This rollout is a simplified version of campaign objectives drastically consolidating sub-variants to overarching objectives from awareness through conversion, with a post-conversion option coming in months to come. This reflects the not so gentle nudge advertisers can keep expecting towards giving Meta the keys to the car, while advertisers control the destination.
As short form video takes off and platforms like TikTok keep growing, Meta is also keen for advertisers to embrace this shift as well. Their short-form and vertical video product, known as Reels, is their counter to TikTok and they are heavily shifting users to engage across their feeds. Advertisers should expect increased ad inventory to accompany this shift as 20% of time on Instagram is already spent on Reels with Facebook seeing slower, but inevitable growth, towards this placement as well.
Lastly, Influencers, now coined as ‘Creators’, are becoming a bigger and bigger part of advertising strategies and their growth on the platform cannot be underestimated. As the creator economy keeps booming, the efficiency of making content will keep increasing along with the scalability of the content being made. Brands will need to consider long-term investments with Creators as the term brand ambassador takes a whole new meaning and the sole reliance on creative agencies for content generation begins to fade.
Performance 5 Framework
Historically, Meta has been reluctant to provide industry benchmarks, general best practices, and overall broad guidelines for advertising on their platform due to the unique nature of each advertiser. This is what makes their new Performance 5 framework so refreshing. While their below ‘standards’ need to be vetted and tested against, its gives social strategy a much-needed initial framework for those going to market for the first time and best practices to challenge.
Goal: Leverage simplified Advantage suite campaign objectives and keep spend in the learning phase below 20%.
Context: Removing unnecessary duplication of tactics will drive further efficiencies within the platform and allow for optimal usage of machine learning, so the majority of spend is going towards the top performing audience and ad combinations.
Goal: Spend 10% of budget (or more) on Creators using Branded Content Ads.
Context: The creator economy is exploding with exponential growth happening year after year after year. In 2020, Meta saw a nearly 40% average sales lift and 19% lower cost per acquisition from Branded Content within direct response campaigns.
Goal: Test into Reels and rotate creative concepts, personalities, tones, and assets.
Context: Reels will start increasingly taking share from Feed and Stories placements. Testing your strategy early will allow for successful scaling and creative feedback as to what concepts will work the hardest.
CAPI Implementation and EMQ Scores
Goal: Successfully implement Conversions API and maximize Event Match Quality Score.
Context: CAPI is a necessary and fundamental next step into the cookieless world. In essence, this creates a pipeline from your website directly to Meta re-capturing signals lost by IOS14. The Event Match Quality Score (EMQ) indicates whether you have set up your information parameters correctly and the percentage of server events passed back.
Business Results Validation
Goal: Run at least 1 lift study per quarter.
Context: This is nothing new but a great reminder and audit item to ensure that ongoing tactics, optimizations, and testing strategies are actually helping you drive business. While this doesn’t need to be the primary KPI, these studies can help provide color to the standard MMMs, MTAs, and last click attribution models guiding business decisions which typically fail to accurate capture the true impact of Paid Social
(Extra Credit): Consumer Experience
Goal: Fully functioning site speed load times within 3 seconds.
Context: Despite the best campaign strategy, creative concepts, and testing plans, a poor consumer experience can devalue your investment instantaneously. Relevant landing pages, fast load times, and streamlined checkouts are crucial to a seamless consumer experience – even if microsites need to be created to accompany the campaign.
It will be important for advertisers to embrace and test these standards against their current strategies if they want to see the most efficient delivery the platform can provide.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Creative
Too often conclusions are drawn about campaign performance are paired with unclear explanations. Whether it is seasonality, poor performance audiences, increased competition, etc. the list goes on and on. While this may be accurate in some instances, most cases of performance can be tied to the quality of the creative. In fact, Meta estimates 56% of all auction outcomes can be attributed to the creative used in the campaign. It is the single most important factor that contributes to campaign outcomes and one statement can help shape your perspective:
“It’s not about creating the perfect ad – it’s about creating a variety of ads to reach people when they are ready to engage with it.”
The value in ad variety cannot be understated. It can also help with the ever-present challenge of ad fatigue in which Meta states a 60% drop in conversation performance can occur after 4 exposures to the same ad. It doesn’t require a high cost either. The aforementioned rise of creators can provide platform first creative at low costs and high variety, with authenticity that can drive higher lift than stills from the TV spot or the 1-2 planned assets for the quarter long campaign.
A New Reality (Literally)
We are entering into the third phase of the internet, and it’s likely to be here before we know it. Phase one consisted of accessing information across different desktop sites, blogs, and chatrooms. Phase two was born when the internet became mobile and user generated content across social sites started dominating daily use. Phase three will bring immersive and transitive experiences that can be shared with anyone, anywhere, and at any time with avatars becoming synonymous with our digital identity.
Of course, this is referencing growing VR/AR technologies and the beginning of the Metaverse. Meta is all in on the fact that the Metaverse is the next big computing platform and is focused on building technologies that enable connection there. But it’s not here yet and its not clear when it will be, which leaves some advertisers confused as to how to strategize and prepare for this new reality most of us don’t quite fully comprehend.
The overarching guidance today is equal parts vague and simple: your metaverse strategy should align with your business strategy. This 1,000 foot view subtly suggests brands focused on growth and innovation should be looking for opportunities today, while more reserved and cost-conscious brands should delay investment until the space has seen further maturity.
Wherever your brand sits in the timeline, Meta provides the following proportions for web-based investment:
- 70% towards building your current foundation with Web 2 technologies including optimizing consumer experiences so friction is present for evolved experiences.
- 25% towards test and learn opportunities with AR including evaluating how AR fits into your customer journey and how the technology can provide true value to your customers.
- 5% towards the exploration of emerging opportunities within the metaverse including digital product offerings and alternate worlds where consumers can engage with your brand.
- Embrace product updates towards machine learning, increased automation, and short form video with simplified campaign structure and creative versioning with Creators.
- Establish where your brand sits within the Performance 5 Framework and monitor performance quarterly with strategic measurement in place.
- Test where AR fits into your customer journey and how your brand can provide value.
- Ideate metaverse experiences that fit into your brand strategy and prepare internally for the resources, partnerships, or internal infrastructure needed to execute them within the next decade.