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  • Writer's pictureJason Burlin

Facebook Advantage Plus Shopping: Worth the Hype?

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Many marketers and bloggers prioritize being the first to write about new advertising opportunities or features in order to deliver the news first and sell their products or services as a result. That’s why many of them race to post any new update and promote it to achieve their own objectives. While the majority of my publications are about advertising concepts, strategies, and guidance, I also enjoy writing about new updates that have a meaningful impact for advertisers.

Facebook has recently released a new ad format called Advantage Plus Shopping, which has generated a lot of excitement among users. In fact, there is more hype around this ad format than any previous format that I can recall recently, which is why I believe it’s worth further examination.

The core idea behind Advantage Plus Shopping is simple and can be summarized under one term: automations. If you have read my previous posts, you would know that my approach to paid advertising is centered and focused around giving the algorithm as much freedom and flexibility as possible to automate ad delivery and maximize performance. This includes automating targeting, creative selection, and total spend.

Advantage Plus Shopping, which is currently being gradually released to all advertisers, was created specifically for these reasons – to take more control over which ads are shown, to whom they are shown, and when they are shown to users. Facebook defines it as a machine learning-based solution offered as part of Meta’s Advantage+ products, which aims to simplify audience targeting and creative management for advertisers seeking to drive online sales. It requires less input during campaign creation and streamlines the creative management process.

In more basic terms, Advantage Plus Shopping enables advertisers to combine first-time visitors (prospecting) and return visitors (remarketing) in one campaign and use dynamic ads more effectively. Dynamic ads are where Facebook fetches products from an advertiser’s store and shows them in ads to users. Additionally, creating campaigns is easier because advertisers can import ads from their top-performing campaigns and create up to 150 ad variations in a single Advantage Plus Shopping campaign. This allows advertisers to have one centralized campaign with up to 150 ads that all share the same learning and data, letting the algorithm pick the best variations and match them with the most relevant audiences. This means that advertisers can have an ad geared towards female users and another geared towards male users in the same campaign, both being placed in front of their respective target audiences.

Instead of having 5-10 different campaigns, each with numerous ads, Advantage Plus Shopping allows advertisers to have a centralized campaign with up to 150 ads. These ads share the same learning and data, and the algorithm selects the best variations and matches them with the most relevant audiences. For example, an advertiser can have an ad that is geared towards female users, and another that is suitable for male users, both in the same campaign, and both targeted towards their respective audiences.

Advantage Plus Shopping offers advertisers the ability to automate and streamline their campaign management, giving them more control over which ads are shown to whom, and when they are shown. This helps simplify audience targeting and creative management, and enables advertisers to drive online sales more effectively.

Placements in Advantage Plus Shopping are automated, which means that advertisers cannot manually exclude or select specific placements based on the ad format. For example, an advertiser cannot select to show only vertical ads in Reels and Stories placement or only regular size ads in the News Feed. Instead, the algorithm automates the process of selecting which ad to show in each placement based on its prediction of which ad will perform best. If an advertiser adds multiple ad formats to the same campaign, the algorithm will predict where these creatives will perform well and automate their delivery simultaneously across different placements on Facebook and Instagram.

Advantage Plus Shopping is designed to give more control to the algorithm to maximize advertising performance, removing human bias from targeting users and selecting advertising creatives. The entire delivery process is built and automated based on data and AI.

However, it’s important to note that there are some disadvantages that advertisers should be aware of.

Let’s discuss the main disadvantages of the Advantage Plus Shopping ad format.

The bidding system currently does not have bid caps or target costs. In my opinion, this is the biggest disadvantage of the ad format. Without the ability to set a target cost for each conversion or result, advertisers cannot communicate to the advertising platform the kind of results they are looking for. This prevents them from achieving their desired cost per conversion and scaling their spending on Advantage Plus Shopping campaigns. The price of conversions can fluctuate dramatically from day to day due to the cost of the market. Without a target cost, the algorithm will simply optimize ads towards achieving conversions at the lowest cost possible, rather than at a cost that is right for the advertiser.

Demographics cannot be selected in the campaign settings. While location can be selected, gender and age cannot. This is problematic if you sell women’s clothing as irrelevant or less relevant traffic, such as males, can waste ad delivery. Unfortunately, there is no option to exclude them. Facebook’s response is that the audience seeing your ads is generated based on your website traffic and pixel, and relevant users will automatically be shown your ads. Although demographics do get filtered down, advertising is expensive, and we don’t want to waste impressions on users who aren’t likely to purchase. Advantage Plus Shopping takes time to filter down to your most relevant audience, and it’s disappointing that demographic options are not included in the settings.

Another major disadvantage of advantage plus shopping campaigns is that you cannot exclude your existing or past customers. Unlike standard campaigns, this format does not allow you to exclude users who have already purchased your product, which can be problematic for businesses that sell products unlikely to be purchased repeatedly. While you can include a list of existing customers under account settings, this list cannot be used for exclusions. Instead, Facebook will use this information to learn about your customers and target similar users who are predicted to be relevant. However, it may take some time for the algorithm to determine whether showing ads to existing customers makes sense, which can impact advertising efficiency.

As previously mentioned, the inability to exclude or select specific placements can negatively impact your brand’s appearance across various placements. For example, your dynamic carousel ad or image ad may appear in a Reels or Stories ad, even though the size appears off. Some brands prefer full control over how their brand image appears on every format and do not want to leave it up to the algorithm to decide on the ad placements. Consequently, they choose not to use Advantage Plus Shopping to have full control over each creative and ad placement.

Another important piece of information that’s worth mentioning is that shopping plus ads are given priority in the ad auction process. This means that if you have multiple campaigns running, advantage shopping plus is likely to receive priority placement in “prime ad opportunities.” For instance, if there are 20 campaigns running and 10 potential buyers in a given moment, the advantage shopping plus campaign will be promoted and given the first ad impression before other campaigns. This could make it seem like the advantage shopping plus campaign is performing better than others, but in reality, it’s just getting prioritized. This happens because of how shopping plus ads deliver ads and target users, but it’s a complex topic that can’t be easily summarized.

However, it’s important to know that if you have an advantage plus campaign and a standard ad campaign running side by side, advantage shopping plus is likely to get the first ad impression and reach potential customers first.

In conclusion, Advantage Plus Shopping is a new ad format from Facebook that aims to simplify audience targeting and creative management for advertisers seeking to drive online sales. While it offers automation and streamlining of campaign management, there are several disadvantages to consider, such as the lack of bid caps or target costs in the bidding system, the inability to select demographics in campaign settings, and the inability to exclude existing or past customers. Additionally, placements cannot be excluded or selected, which can negatively impact brand appearance on various placements. Despite these drawbacks, shopping plus ads are given priority in the ad auction process, providing advertisers with a chance to reach potential customers first.

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Jason Burlin

A seasoned marketer with more than a decade of experience in online paid advertising. Managed more than $150M in ad spend and worked with more than 500+ brands. He is known as the unconventional marketer.

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