When running ads through Meta Ads Manager, where do your ads appear to the public? The answer is that there are several possible platforms and placements. As the advertiser, you can choose the platforms and placements that you think will be most beneficial.
The ad set level is where platforms and placements for your ads are chosen. If you want to keep things simple, you can choose the Automatic Placements option. This tells Meta that you are okay with whichever platforms or placements their system chooses. Ad delivery will then be based on machine-learning models for how your optimization goal can best be achieved. (Your optimization goal is also chosen at the ad set level.)
If you forgo automatic placements in favor of manual placements, you’ll then have many choices to include or exclude for your ad delivery. You’ll have about twenty-five placements to choose from, although the options you’ll see depend on the campaign objective you chose.
Rather than go through all placement checkboxes individually, you can begin by simply including or excluding platforms. The platform choices are
- Audience network
Once you’ve chosen the platforms for your ads to appear, you can then select or deselect various placement options for those platforms. There are eight categories of placements, some of which have several sub-options that can be selected or deselected via a checkbox. Here is the list of placement categories and their respective sub-options:
- Facebook Feed
- Instagram Feed
- Facebook Marketplace
- Facebook Video Feeds
- Facebook Right Column
- Instagram Explore
- Instagram Shop
- Messenger Inbox
- Stories and Reels
- Instagram Stories
- Facebook Stories
- Messenger Stories
- Instagram Reels
- Facebook Reels
- Facebook Instream Videos
- Reels Overlay
- Search/Facebook Search Results
- Messages/Messenger Sponsored Messages
- In-article/Facebook Instant Articles
- Apps and Sites
- Audience Network native, banner, and intersitial
- Audience Network rewarded videos
- Audience Network in-stream videos
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What is Audience Network?
Audience network is a network of mobile apps that are partnered with Meta for ad distribution. It has a wide reach; more than one billion people see at least one audience network ad every month. The benefit audience network offers to advertisers is that their ads from Meta can be seen by a larger audience than just the apps and websites Meta owns, like Facebook and Instagram. And (importantly) you don’t need to create a separate ad creative for audience network. The ads you create normally are adapted to suit the format and placement requirements of the various apps.
The apps in audience network have a variety of purposes, but many of them revolve around the areas of gaming, education, entertainment, sports, media, and lifestyle themes. Meta is transparent about which app publishers are part of audience network, and they make the publisher list available for download. As an advertiser, you can control which audience network placements your ads appear in. You can block specific apps that are inappropriate or unsuitable for your goals. You can also use the inventory filter to prevent your ads from showing around sensitive content.
Which platforms and placements should you choose?
Meta’s recommendation is to use Automatic Placements, which is understandable from their point of view. They believe that the best “results” can be achieved if you give them the freedom to test throughout the whole array of options – and they are probably right. The problem, however, is that their idea of “results” can have a narrow interpretation without considering quality. For example, if you choose to optimize your ad set for clicks, the likelihood is that a large portion of your ads will be delivered to audience network, which is known to be a lower-quality traffic source. Why? Because audience network ads show in a variety of ways and in many different mobile apps, sometimes in a confusing layout. Clicks on audience network ads are more likely to be accidental than on other Meta platforms.
For the most part, self-serve online ad systems like Meta Ads Manager and Google Ads are biased for broader targeting, as opposed to narrow and focused. It makes sense, considering that they are primarily in the business of delivering impressions. The easier it is for them to deliver impressions, the more money they can make. There are certainly good reasons sometimes to use broad settings, including automatic placements, but it helps to understand how the platforms and placements are different and how delivery can change depending on the optimization goal that has been chosen.