Facebook Officially Launches Ads API, Opening Efficient Ad Management Tool Development

Facebook today announced the official launch of Ads API, which allows developers to create tools and services that programmatically create, buy, and manage Facebook ad campaigns. The Ads API had been in limited private beta since late 2009, and has been used by brands via third-party providers to run and optimize multi-million dollar ad campaigns too complex to conducted through Facebook’s self-serve ad tool.

Developers can now apply to join the program, which may lead to the rise of many new Ads API tool and service providers. The influx might create new small acquisition targets for Page management companies, or commodify ads management, with an economy tier of tools and services emerging to serve smaller advertisers. Alternatively it might lead Page management companies to build ads products and services in-house, slowing the recent wave of consolidation between the two industries.

Before the start of the Ads API program, the bulk uploader system for the manual self-serve tool was the most efficient way to run ads on Facebook. This restricted large scale ad purchase, A/B testing and dynamic bid optimization, making it difficult for advertisers to obtain optimal performance and see the potential of Facebook ads.

Until now, only a few dozens developers had been admitted into the Ads API beta program, making those with access attractive for partnerships and acquisitions. With big advertisers increasingly moving spend to Facebook and few providers but few companies, those few with access had the potential to make a lot money.

Some offered full-service managed spend where the provider would collect the margin it could make after arranging a cost per click or cost per action with advertisers. Others developed licensable tools for advertisers and agencies and charged a percentage of total spend. The lucrative business led to the quick rise of companies such as TBG Digital, Spruce Media, and AdParlor, as well as Facebook ad divisions of search advertising providers like Efficient Frontier.

This morning, Facebook reached out to us saying “Today, Facebook’s Ads API is out of beta and available for developers”. Those with plans to build an Ads API tool or service can now apply for the program. The application process requires developers to explain what they plan to build, what resources they’re dedicating to the build, and to have run more than 10 million Facebook ad impressions. It says those planning to “build value for users and marketers” are most likely to be accepted, and those that apply can expect a response within two weeks.

This increase in access to the Ads API will undoubtedly impact that third-party Facebook tool and service provider landscape. Experian recently bought Ads API developer Techlightenment, and Vitrue partnered with TBG Digital, but these types of companies might now be more inclined to develop their own ads products. Before, most ad tool or service providers required a minimum spend on the advertiser’s part, but free basic tools might bring efficient ads management to local and small businesses.

In the end, the one standing to gain the most is Facebook, which is now billing the Ads, Pages, and Insights API as the combined Facebook Marketing API program. More competition among third-party providers should reduce their fees, drawing the long-tail of advertisers in, with improved ad performance inspiring greater spend. It will also allow big Page management companies with large lists of existing brands to integrate the Ads API, leading big brands to easily pair its Facebook Page and application campaigns with ads.