After a somewhat fallow period, Meta is regaining its footing with marketers.
Three agency and brand sources told Adweek they are reallocating funds back toward Meta, especially compelled by the performance of Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns, an AI-driven tool that optimizes ads across audiences and ad formats, leaning on automation and machine learning to make up for signal loss.
This is a shift from the beginning of this year when sources said they were not planning on increasing their Meta investment in 2023, partly spurred by poorer performance and more enticing platforms like TikTok and connected TV.
After decreasing spend on Meta over the course of 2022, Matt Gehring, CMO at telehealth vet firm Dutch started putting his growing marketing budget back into Facebook and Instagram.
“We’re growing spend,” he said, “I’m taking those incremental dollars and I’m pushing them back into Meta rather than some other channels,” he added, noting that prior to the success of ASC campaigns, he would not have directed the funds toward Meta.
Katya Constantine, founder of DTC agency DigiShopGirl said the agency is seeing 5-7% of budgets shift toward Meta incrementally.
“In regards to budget allocation, we are seeing strong conversion performance coming from Meta in Q1,” Constantine. “We are seeing media spend from other paid social channels being shifted to Meta as other paid social channels (including TikTok) are a bit softer.”
Since February, when the agency noticed greater efficiency on Meta relative to TikTok, David Herrmann, president of DTC-focused agency Herrmann Digital, said his agency has been directing more spend from his TikTok budget towards Meta.
“I can run an ad on Facebook, and it will consistently work,” Herrmann said, noting clients can go months without changing ads and rely on Meta’s algorithmic creative optimization. “The same ad on TikTok; you’ll usually get three to four days out of it before you have to rebuild it.”
Meta winning an AI race
Part of Meta’s allure for advertisers comes from its superior automation and AI tools.
TikTok introduced a tool similar to Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns called Smart Performance Campaigns, which automates the audience targeting and creative optimization processes, among others. But the tool hasn’t produced dramatically improved results compared to traditional TikTok campaigns, three buyers told Adweek.
“We are not seeing strong results from this rollout,” Constantine said. “Comparatively to [Google’s] Performance Max or Advantage+, where in most cases we saw a lift in performance and scale, in regards to TikTok, we are not seeing that just yet. There is a number of reasons for this. One is both Google and Meta have significantly more data and history in their algorithm-based campaigns, and TikTok is still a newer platform.”
Regardless, many marketers reserve a place for TikTok in their media plan, a meteoric rise for an app that was barely a household name three years ago.
Avi Ben-Zvi, vp of paid social at performance agency Tinuiti, said Smart Performance Campaigns are too new to be written off, and his agency has seen some positive results.
In a recent A/B test, Tinuiti found that Smart Performance Campaigns were 26% more efficient based on cost per acquisition than an average TikTok campaign and that the campaign drove 20% of last-click revenue, despite only receiving 14% of the campaign’s media spend, meaning it drove an outsized ROI compared to other channels.
Relying on the black box
While Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns are producing good results, some marketers are wary of using the tool, which has fewer levers to pull than typical Meta campaigns and offers less transparency into granular campaign details.
“As a performance marketer, I want to look in the black box, so if anything deteriorates, I can know why,” Gehring said.
Advertisers who have less ability to trace how one piece of creative drove a particular result worry the algorithm could lead to undetected biases.
Alex Song, CEO of Proxima, a data intelligence firm that helps businesses improve their targeting and performance across social platforms, noticed Advantage+ may favor brands that spend more money.
For larger brands, or those spending more than $100,000 a month on Meta, Advantage+ campaigns generate CPMs 4.7% more expensive than when these same large advertisers use non-Advantage+ campaigns on Meta, according to data drawn from 71 advertisers using Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns from Proxima.
But for smaller advertisers, or those that spend less than $100,000 a month, CPMs for Advantage+ campaigns are 26% more expensive than non-Advantage+ campaigns.
“Is Meta really looking out and optimizing their algorithm to maximize your total ad spend, or are they trying to maximize their profitability?” Song said.
Several other marketers said they didn’t notice this difference between big and small spenders and that all algorithms work better with more data.
For Ben-Zvi, the danger of automated tools like Advantage+ is less about not being able to catch platform mistakes, but in marketers once again relying on Meta mindlessly for all their analytics, instead of taking a more nuanced approach to measurement, as many marketers were forced to do when Meta’s performance lagged in 2021 and 2022.
“The introduction of some of these tools can reverse the need for looking up the funnel and thinking of more sophisticated kinds of measurement,” he said.