Facebook is preparing to slash the number of ad formats it sells from 27 today to less than half that by Q4. On the chopping block are online-only Offer ads, Questions ads and standalone Sponsored Stories placements. Going forward, Facebook will structure and optimize ad buys based on "six or seven" marketer objectives, distributing messages across the placements it deems most likely to accomplish those objectives.
The move is a response to advertiser demand for greater simplicity and less redundancy in its ad offering, said executives during a press conference at the company's Menlo Park office.
With Sponsored Stories, for instance, an advertiser previously had to buy three units – a "Page Post Like" sponsored story, a "Page Post Comment" sponsored story and "Page Post" ads. The buyer working within Facebook's ad creation tool would have to process three individual buys. Now, Facebook will merge those buys into a single ad placement with social context layered on top.
"We think it should be focused on allowing you to just craft your message and automatically show you the best social context that's available," said Fidji Simo, product manager of ads."We want to have one ad structure that exists across objectives and content placements. It's going to make it a lot easier for advertisers to set up campaigns."
However, Facebook does plan to preserve some discrete ad types – for instance, Mobile App Install ads, its mobile-only ads geared to app developers, and in-store Offers geared to brick-and-mortar retail promotions. Online-only offers will go away, though.
Additionally, Facebook said there will be no changes on the back-end, either to the pricing of ads or to the bid mechanics that determine how ads are matched to placements.
The move raises the question of advertiser control, just as Google's mandatory shift to Enhanced Campaigns, which combine desktop and mobile ad spend. Unlike the Google move, Facebook says it will continue to support segmentation between desktop and mobile buys.
On a first glance, fewer ads might seem to spell trouble for the 44 Ads API certified partners in Facebook's Preferred Marketing Developer program, since some PMDs have arguably benefited from the complexity and confusion. Not so, says Facebook's director of product marketing Brian Boland.
"We are absolutely an ecosystem company," Boland said. "A lot of PMDs are migrating to business outcomes. The reason they're driving success is not because of complexity. It's in spite of the complexity. This work on the simplicity front is going to be a benefit to PMD partners."
Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott likewise doubted any negative impact on PMDs.
"That deep optimization that a Kenshoo or a Clickable provides will still go through algorithms that run lots of different creatives and optimize against the best ones," Elliott said.