Facebook increasing ad frequency risks kickback from marketers

Without fanfare, Facebook this month doubled the number of times users can see an ad in their News Feed from a page they are not connected to from one to two ads per day, a move industry observers say could prove a “double edged” sword risking kickback from the marketing community.

Facebook video ads

The update will not increase the ad load Facebook serves to users, but is instead a relaxation of previous parameters the platform had set about insertions of ads from the same brand in the News Feed.

The frequency cap was raised on 6 August. The frequency cap of ads from a Page users are connected to remains at four per day.

In an email sent to agencies about the changes, obtained by Marketing Week, Facebook says: “We know that businesses like yourself want to get relevant content to people in News Feed but have historically been limited by frequency caps.

“To ensure businesses are better able to build awareness and drive business results through News Feed, we’re making changes that enable businesses to reach people with more relevant content.”

Increasing ad frequency, but not ad load, is likely to create higher pressure within the auction environment, which has risks attached for brands posting poor quality material, according to digital marketing agency iProspect’s paid social media manager Phillip Dyte.

“Whilst the cost of the campaign is already heavily dictated by the quality of the content, in the auction model one only pays for the click itself, not the impression. So a good ad can serve the two impressions and will likely get at least one click and perhaps an engagement [such as a like, comment or share].

“A poor advert, meanwhile, might serve both impressions and get no click at all. When adverts fail like this, the cost of winning the auction increases. Multiply this scenario several hundred thousand times and suddenly marketers might really start paying the price – literally – of settling for inferior content marketing.”

That pricing risk could push marketers into considering other platforms to drive engagement and reach, according to Ben Silcox, head of data and technology at digital and data agency Havas EHS.

“The risks are based on the concentrated nature of time spent by people on Facebook. With traditional display advertising it was difficult to create a saturation effect. Now, only the brands that have the most compelling stories and the most interesting content that will get someone to nod, smile or share  will fuel this advertising spend,” he says.

“Facebook is encouraging clients to do less content, but greater spend per piece – for most brands the juggle between budget and content quality will be key,” Silcox adds.

Repositioning News Feed ads around reach compared with engagement could also risk advertisers treating Facebook as “one giant display network”, according to media agency Mindshare UK’s head of social strategy Jed Hallam. That is an approach research house Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst Nate Elliott claimed last year had seen Facebook “failing marketers” by abandoning its original promise of social marketing in favour of focusing on display ads. 

But Mindshare’s Hallam says Facebook could redeem itself among marketers as it rolls out Premium Video advertising and the possibility of sequential storytelling, which he hopes will encourage brands to begin using the platform as a way of using content to tell stories, “rather than using it as a huge display network to be hammered”. 

Whilst the move to increase frequency caps may raise initial concerns amongst the advertising industry – as with any change Facebook makes – Heather Bowen, social media editor at The Daily Mirror publisher Trinity Mirror, says the shift in approach should not be a cause for concern for the majority of marketers in the long-run.

“Over 70 per cent of Facebook users check the social networking site at least once every couple of hours [according to data from statistics portal Statista]. Say they’re awake for eight hours a day: that means they’ll check Facebook around four times a day.

“During that time, the way the algorithm works, they’re bound to see repeats of non-paid-for content, so I imagine it won’t seem unusual for them to see the same ad twice during that time too.

“I say the proof will be in the figures and every marketer will have to measure for themselves whether this is a successful change for them or not.”

Facebook declined to comment.

Last month Facebook credited a 67 per cent year on year ad revenue hike in its second quarter to marketers beginning to treat the platform with the same creative respect as they do with TV. The company posted ad revenue of $2.76bn in the three months to 30 June. 

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