As part of our ongoing series on companies offering Facebook’s Ads API tools and services, today we profile Clickable’s Facebook Advertising Suite. While clients can also manage search advertising, Clickable Pro handles Facebook advertising in a separate interface so it can quickly iterate on frequent changes to the Ads API. This separation prevents a holistic view of online marketing or a fluid cross-channel budget allocation. The tool also lacks dynamic bid optimization and native data visualization, so clients can’t run Facebook ad campaigns as efficiently as with other Ads API tools.
For those less familiar, Facebook’s performance advertising system offers powerful targeting, but the user interface is not designed for running big campaigns or conducting sophisticated A/B testing. Since the fall of 2009, Facebook has granted a limited number of developers access to an Ads API so they can build more powerful tools and services for designing, targeting, and managing ads.
Clickable was founded in 2006 to simplify search advertising by combining reporting and bid management into a single interface. The New York-based company has received $22.5 million in funding from Union Square Ventures, and FirstMark Capital, as well as Peter Thiel and Founders Fund — both of whom are also Facebook investors.
The company has since grown to 150 employees, opened an office in Gurgaon, India, and now offers self-serve and managed spend advertising on Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Facebook. Clients pay Clickable 10% of spend or less depending on their commitment, though there is no minimum spend, making the tool accessible to those with smaller budgets. Clients come from across different industries and include American Express, LexisNexis, New York Meida, and InfoGroup. To persuade more of its existing search clients to try its social product, Clickable is waiving their fees for trying the Facebook Advertising Suite.
The shared investors helped Clickable gain early access to the Ads API and form a close relationship with the social network so they are informed of upcoming changes. Clickable pledged to update its tool weekly in response to API changes, pleasing Facebook with whom i it now meets several times a month. This relationship ensures consistent service for clients even if Facebook makes major changes that might temporarily break other Ads API tools. On why Clickable separates Facebook from its other services, Senior Vice-President, Product & Operations David Fall says “integrating search and social in the same user interface muddies the waters and is a limiting factor in moving quickly.”
Within the Clickable Pro Dashboard, clients can choose the Social(beta) tab to open the Facebook Advertising Suite and view a recent cost and performance summary of their Facebook ad campaigns. Clients can use drop-down menus to customize special trend reports to see how certain metrics have faired over time.
Clickable’s ad builder uses an innovative non-linear flow, where clients can configure ad creative, targeting, and bidding in whatever order they choose. The campaigns tab shows performance data including the social clicks delivered through Facebook’s special social context ad unit. Clients can also use the bulk uploader tool to import existing data.
Ad Variant Creation and Targeting
The target builder copies the Facebook self-serve ad tool’s UI for a familiar feel, though tags can also appended to ads for better organization, filtering, and aggregated metrics. It also augments Facebook’s keyword suggester with even more possible matches to help clients find additional related targets for their ads. One shortcoming is that audience and bid estimates don’t update in real-time like on Facebook, so clients have to click the “Estimate” button after each change to see approximate reach.
The creative builder lets clients upload new images or use saved ones, and enter a destination URL or select from a list of Facebook entities like Pages they control. Currently, one of Clickable’s biggest problem is the low limit on the number of ad variants than can be simultaneously created. Other tools allow thousands of targeting and creative permutations to be instantly created, but Clickable only permits clients to design up to 32 at once.
Clickable says the choice was made because it is difficult to show thousands of variants in a graphical UI, and so it “felt comfortable with a manageable but somewhat arbitrary limit.” Unfortunately, this significantly hampers A/B testing that can be crucial to finding what targets produce the highest click-through-rates.
Bid Management and Analytics
Ad variants are pre-populated with a suggested bid that can be changed in bulk. They can be assigned to existing campaigns or a new campaign, and are submitted to Facebook for approval within ten minutes.
Clients, or Clickable’s solutions team must then manage bids by hands or using “if…then” rules, since the tool lacks a dynamic bidding engine that can instantly respond to small fluctuations in ad performance. An ad’s bid can only be changed once per hour. This system is highly inefficient, requires constant attention, and can’t scale to campaigns running thousands of ads at once.
The problem is compounded by the absence of custom data visualization that would give clients a better understanding of ad performance. Using filtering options, a client could determine what ads are being clicked least frequently, but without graphs it would be nearly impossible to deduce subtle slips in CTR that signal the need to rotate ad creative.
Clickable Needs Time to Mature
Clickable has a lot of features planned on its roadmap, including upping the ad variant creation limit and offering image hashing to speed up the process of approving ad images with Facebook. Still it doesn’t have plans to address some major functionality gaps.
Fall believes that search and social advertising interfaces shouldn’t pull from the same budget. “Hopefully more Facebook data will be available in the future and social will be more differentiated from search.” However, for now, advertisers have to make tough choices between channels, and many want an advertising platform that can show them when to shift spend from Google to Facebook and back in order to maximize returns.
Despite its rapid release cycle, Clickable Pro’s Facebook Advertising Suite lacks too many core features to compete with better developed Ads API tools. With enough time it could implement dynamic bid management and auto-optimization, and allow clients to view charts and graphs of ad performance. Until then, only Clickable’s existing search clients who can get the social advertising services for free and advertisers looking to experiment on Facebook without a minimum spend should use the Facebook Advertising Suite.