Facebook Ads API: Gaming the System

Dennis Yu is Chief Executive Officer of BlitzLocal, a Webtrends partner that Builds social media dashboards to measure brand engagement and ROI, specializing in the intersection of Facebook and local advertising. You can reach him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, his blog, or good old-fashioned email at dennis@blitzlocal.com.

Until recently, only a handful of vendors have had access to the Facebook Ads API—a few major tool developers and some folks willing to make a $5M deposit with Facebook. We've been running Facebook ads and building apps for the last 4 years. The breakdown on the Facebook Ads API: It’s not exactly as robust as the Google AdWords API, but that creates an opportunity to build what Facebook has missed, or game the system, depending on whether you’re white or black hat.

Let’s discuss the current landscape and then reveal what’s missing:

The folks who have had access so far have done little with it, squandering whatever lead they could have had. Most are them are touting how they can load thousands of ads per hour, as if brute forcing the system with crappy ads will make up for well-targeted ads that truly engage users and convince them to become fans or open their wallets.

Dumb mass multiplication of ads is no different than sending your resume and canned cover letter to 10,000 employers and believing that sheer numbers are in your favor. I suppose, using another analogy, that if you asked enough strangers to fornicate with you, that eventually some would. But in the process, you’ll develop a reputation you might not like.

The current batch of Ads API vendors claim that mass multiplication increases the probability of success—and they’re right, but just not for the reasons they might think. The classic example goes something like this: let’s say you have 10 different images, 10 different titles, 10 body copies, and 10 interest targets. Multiply that out and get 10,000 different ad combinations.

Facebook’s ad algorithm operates on an eCPM auction, akin to Google AdWords and other networks. The system must allocate a certain amount of test inventory to each new ad added to the auction. Load up 10,000 ads and the system will allocate a LOT of inventory to test your new ads. Some PPC systems are smart enough to tell if you’re loading up a duplicate ad (consider Google’s Quality Score), consider the history of that ad account, and even limit how many ads you can load.

We brought this loophole to Facebook’s attention two years ago, but it still appears to be open. If I were Facebook, I would not want advertisers clogging up the system with low quality ads, which hurt the User Experience, lowers network revenue, and creates a large burden on the manual ad review team (they’re hiring a ton of people in Ad Ops, by the way). To allow existing and new ad vendors to do this is open season.

Be sure to read the next Advertising article: What You Need to Know About Google's AdWords API Deprecation