As part of our ongoing series of profiles on companies that offer products for Facebook’s Ads API, today we look at AdParlor. It provides a full-service solution for app developers working on and off the Facebook platform, helping them buy acquisitions without hiring their own Facebook ads managers.
For those not familiar, Facebook’s performance advertising system is the primary paid tool through which social game companies and other developers attract new users. To allow developers and other marketers to target ads and manage bids for large scale campaigns, Facebook has allowed a limit number of companies acces to an ads API on which advertising tools can be built.
AdParlor has built an ads API tool which it uses internally to conduct managed spend campaigns. Developers set a cost per acquisition they are willing pay for different country, age, and gender demographics and install AdParlor’s tracking pixels on where they consider an acquisition to be completed, on monetization, or on a specific action. AdParlor than buys CPM and CPC ads from Facebook on the developer’s behalf, optimizes bids to achieve the client’s goals, and earns or loses the difference between their cost per user and the dev’s set CPA. Developers are only charged what they define.
Developer clients provide some creative assets, but then AdParlor takes care of the rest, creating and targeting ads, managing bids, optimizing, and reporting back to the client. The only part of the ads API tool developers have to interact with is the reporting dashboard which lets them monitor performance and pause or activate campaigns. By using an external company to handle advertising, developers can focus on improving their games.
AdParlor began as a Facebook banner ad network and offer wall provider in 2008. Restrictions on banner ad content plus competition and backlash in the offer wall space pushed the company away from these business models. Meanwhile, it saw that the largest demand for its ad network came from developers trying to drive user acquisition, and it had begun buying Facebook ads through the bulk uploader tool to deliver the volume developers wanted. Through the laborious process of manually A/B testing ad variants, the company formulated ideas for a sophisticated tool.
In march 2010 AdParlor’s application to use the ads API was approved. It quickly built the tool and shifted its business to full-service Facebook advertising. The bootstrapped, Toronto-based company now has ten employees including three engineers. The company makes money by running campaigns where their cost per acquisition from CPC and CPM campaigns is less than the CPA they charge clients.
AdParlors clients include Facebook game developers KlickNation and A Bit Lucky, console developer Ubisoft, online and desktop developer PlayFirst, and group deals provider Groupon. In the first week of November, 7 of the 20 fastest growing Facebook apps were advertising with AdParlor.
To ensure clients are large enough to receive the company’s focus, AdParlor requires at $10,000 spend commitment, though their average client spends roughly $50,000 a month, and their largest spends more than $500,000 a month. AdParlor is now driving over 3 million app installs per month, and producing over 400 million ad impressions a day.
Service and Product Info
When clients sign on with AdParlor, they either provide spreadsheets of CPA targets for different demographics or AdParlor can use predictive modeling to help the client determine appropriate goals. Clients also submit creative assets which AdParlor’s design team builds off of to create ad images whose colors and shapes are swapped and combined with different headlines, titles and bodies to create thousands of ad variants. Clients can create an advertising account on their app for AdParlor, permitting exclusion targeting of those who’ve already installed their app.
It can take less than a day for a client’s ads to start running. AdParlor’s algorithms A/B test all the creative and targeting combinations and shift budget towards the best performers. The system dynamically changes bids to maximize ROI, so if 25-30 year old Norwegian males monetize best around dinner time, AdParlor will increase bids to those targets at that time.
Clients monitor their campaigns through the AdParlor dashboard. Clients can view the status of campaigns and pause or activate them and see their remaining budget,. The dashboard’s home page shows data on the last two days, including coversions, impressions, clicks, CTR, CVR, cost, and graphs for CVR by Hour and Daily Trending. The bottom of the page shows the selected campaign’s lifetime stats, as well as a country breakdown pie chart and an engagement funnel showing where users drop off.
Through the dashboard’s left sidebar navigation, clients can get more detailed charts showing the exact performance of every ad in a campaign. Clients can also see the performance of different creative combinations; trending graphs of CVR by hour of the day, day of the week, date, or CTR by date; conversions by date, and more specific conversion/engagement data. Data can be exported as a CSV, though the native visualizations give solid high level insights.
The management section allows clients to set bid and budget caps and contact their account manager. Lastly, the financials section shows billing between the client and AdParlor.
AdParlor works well for developers who want to be involved as little as possible with the advertising process. Alternative managed spend options include Nanigans, whose cost per acquisition solution allows for slightly more control, as clients can pay more or less for users who reach different engagement or monetization thresholds. Nanigans also provides flash funnel graphs to help developers determine exactly which part of their game needs to be changed because it causes users to drop out. Efficient Frontier’s cross-channel portfolio management system works for clients seeking to include search and display advertising in their campaigns. TBG’s ONE Media Manager, with its larger account management team and $50,000 a month spending minimum, is an option for big clients looking to run massive campaigns.
Hopes for the Future of the Ads API
AdParlor’s CEO Hussein Fazal believes Facebook is unlikely to make the ads API public due to the support team and infrastructure that would require. Nor does he believe Facebook would ever charge for access since the company makes so much on the increased volume of ads sales the ads API brings in. Fazal also notes that keeping up with changes to the API has been easy thanks to Facebook’s ads API mailing list which keeps AdParlor informed.
Fazal had a number of ideas for features which could augment the ads API. Advertising accounts are currently limited to 1000 campaigns and 10,000 ads, forcing AdParlor to create multiple accounts to do large A/B tests. He’d like to see this cap lifted. Fazal says that Facebook’s general APIs can occasionally go offline or have significant slow down, causing the clicks AdParlor buys to lead to broken or slow-loading application pages. Since AdParlor charges for acquisitions which these clicks don’t produce, issues with Facebook APIs can cost the company a lot of money. He’d like to see a warning system for API downtime, alerting advertisers to temporarily pause their campaigns.
Fazal also believes that the ability to target users who have friends using a certain app is inadequate, as a user having one friend playing that game doesn’t mean they’re much more likely to also want to play. He’d like to be able to select a threshold such that AdParlor could target users with more than five or eight friends who play that game.
In conclusion, AdParlor have made themselves experts at running Facebook ad campaigns with the goal of driving user acquisition, registration, or email signups for businesses. Developers are unlikely to be able to attain the same efficiency on their own. The benefits of AdParlor’s sophisticated bid management system, experience with adjusting to fluctuations in ad inventory market price, and the opportunity to completely outsource user acquisition makes the full-service solution a strong choice for game developers on all platforms.