Facebook’s performance advertising system offers deep targeting and a large audience, but doesn’t have adequate controls or analytics for running large scale advertising campaigns. To allow third-parties to solve this problem, Facebook released an ads API last fall upon which sophisticated tools and services can be built. While some companies offer a licensed tool for ads managers to use themselves, and others provide full-service ad campaign execution, one who does both is TBG Digital.
TBG Digital is a London-based digital advertising agency founded in 2001 by Simon Mansell. The company provides cost per acquisition managed spend advertising campaign services on Facebook and across the internet. It recently released the ONE Media Manager, a self-service ad campaign management tool which it licenses to agencies and brands, for them to use internally to help increase ad efficiency. The tool allows ads operation managers to quickly create thousands of ad variants and edit targeting and bids on the fly from a one-screen interface. By allowing fewer employees to control more campaigns more effectively, ONE Media Manager helps users maximize the opportunities of the Facebook ad platform.
TBG was bootstrapped in 2001 by Simon Mansell, now CEO. It previously specialized in search and display advertising, but have since adapted to the social advertising space. TBG Digital has 70 employees, with roughly half working on Facebook-related teams as ads managers or engineers. Mansell began developing ONE Media Manager 14 months ago in an effort to increase its service business’ efficiency, believing Facebook would create a third-party tools industry much the way Google did. TBG became one of first few Facebook ads API alpha testers, and the only non-tech company, allowing it a first-to-market advantage among digital advertising firms.
Including self-serve and full service, the company has over 150 clients running campaigns through ONE Media Manager. Since opening a San Francisco office a few weeks ago, it has signed 14 clients in the US, the company says.
TBG specializes in direct response, with clients from industries such as telecommunications, financial services, retail, gaming, and social applications. Direct clients include Jet Blue, EA Games, Dell, and Experian. TBG licenses ONE Media Manager to Havas, Aegis Media, Groupon and other ad agencies, consulting firms, and in-house marketing departments. It earns a percentage, and clients spends an average of $200,000-$300,000 a month, with a range from a bare minimum of $50,000 a month up into seven figures. ONE Media Manager has helped run up to 2 billion ads per day. Mansell says the service works best for companies looking to run large scale, but niche-targeted campaigns, especially those with an urgent call to action. He explains that while TBG is more expensive than some competitors, as you pay for its knowledge and investment in technology. He adds that its rate is rarely an issue with clients.
The ONE Media Manager product uses a single screen interface showing information about each ad on a separate row of a live pivot table. All additional features, such as the campaign builder, creative gallery, and ad scheduler appear as pop ups overlaid on the table. Users begin by using the Campaign Builder to select an account and max bid, name the configuration, add a tracking URL, upload an image, and set targeting parameters and creative. A preexisting campaign configuration can also be chosen, sparing users from having the manually clone campaigns to change a single detail. Different permutations of parameters and creatives are combined to allow quick creation of thousands of ad variants, though there is no visualization of the ad creation tree.
Once ads are created, tabs allow users to view different default sets of columns of data about them. The Ad Details tab includes ad and campaign names, client, activity status, title, body copy, image name and preview, link URL, as well as basic performance info on impressions, clicks, and spend. The Stats tab shows more detailed performance data, including max bid, suggested minimum and maximum bid, CTR, CPC, effective CPM, conversions, clicks to application (measures lead generation), impressions, clicks, spend and dates running. Users can view data sets such as “clicks > 1” or “campaign name contains housewives” using a powerful filter. Performance data can be sliced by entering a date range, or by using handy preselects such as last week, month, or year. The default sets of column are customizable and reorderable, allowing users to create personalized views of their campaigns.
An advantage of ONE Media Manager’s pivot table format over more graphic-based representations is that changes can be easily applied to large swaths of ads. This is crucial since thousands of experiments can yield only a few strong ads. A user can pin a successful image or targeting parameter to multiple ads simply by dragging over them, making it easy to utilize the fruits of multivariate testing by editing all of a campaign’s ads to mimic its best performers. To prevent errant clicks from screwing up live campaigns, a save & sync button pushes out confirmed edits only.
By integrating third-party analytics pixels such as Atlas or Dart and linking them to ONE Media Manager, users can take advantage of the “bid to CPA” options, allowing bids to change to reflect fluctuations in CPA. Patrick Toland, head of the TBG San Francisco office, explained how ads run during the 9-5 work day often have better CPAs because people are tempted to goof off at work, and CPAs are lower after work because people want to communicate quickly and move on to leisure time. By bidding to CPA, a user’s bids would lower in the evenings if their CPA drops, preventing overbidding. A bid strategy can be set with options for follow minimum, bid to mean, bid to maximum, or bid by CPA.
The “Uploader” tab contains a few additional features including support for the Facebook performance ad bulk uploader, the predecessor to ads API tools, facilitating creation of campaigns in Excel but monitoring and editing in ONE. The tracking URL uploader allows a large set of tracking URLS to be entered into ONE simultaneously, and the Results uploader allows you to integrate old campaign results to help guide decisions. ONE also supports placing multiple Facebook ads accounts under a single client umbrella, allowing users to bypass limits on how many ads a single account can run.
One serious shortcoming of ONE Media Manager is the lack of any type of native analytics. Campaign results of a single ad or across all ads for a date range can be exported to Excel, but there is no way to view data graphically within the interface. This makes it difficult to quickly deduce trends, especially across more ads than can be seen on one fold of the manager. The system also lacks optimization suggestions AIs available in products like Alchemy, which make suggestions such as which poorly performing ads to pause. The only times you’ll see graphics are in the image gallery for viewing active ad images, and the ad preview, letting you see what a combined set of creative elements will look like on Facebook.
However, the graphic-light style contributes to ONE Media Manager’s biggest strength: speed. Using a customizable single screen interface, and a “pin to” system allowing successful parameters to be quickly applied to many ads means power users can manage more accounts than with other tools. This advantage requires great familiarity with the tool, though, meaning full-service clients employing TBG’s own full-time account ad operation managers will see more benefits than less familiar tool licensees. Overall, TBG’s ONE Media Manager is best suited for those with the money to pay for managed spend service, or those with a dedicated ads management and analytics team which can use the tool to its full effect, perform their own analytics, and don’t need automated suggestions.
In the future, TBG plans to add an intelligent alerts system which notifies managers by email or text when certain circumstances occur, such as if a campaign isn’t getting a certain number of impressions a day or if total spend reaches a certain level. It is planning integrations with Mosaic and Acorn to allow users to auto-target certain consumer profiles. TBG is working on a mobile interface, and an offline campaign management option over Adobe Air so users can edit ads when they’re offline, then sync when they have an internet connection.
A few improvements CEO Simon Mansell would like to see Facebook make include allowing more timely and frequent retrieval of ad stats and improved time zone management. He also says TBG’s clients frequently ask about the potential for conversion and post-impression tracking.
Mansell sees the ads API industry as being in a “very nascent” stage. He says currently TBG and others ads API companies are focusing on improving efficiency, but that developing more automation and artificial intelligence is the next step. Toland believes one of the biggest challenges for companies working off of Facebook APIs is constant change on the back end. TBG can rapidly respond to changes, though, because their London ads operations team notice when something breaks immediately, helping the company fix the tool before it becomes an issue for the ONE Media Manager licensees.