Are Meta’s Problems as Bad As They Seem for Advertisers?

Are Meta’s Problems as Bad As They Seem for Advertisers?

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Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get worse for Meta, along comes another disastrous earnings announcement. On October 26, Meta, the parent of Facebook and Instagram, announced third-quarter earnings characterized by declining revenue and profits.

Quarterly revenue was $27.7 billion, down more than 4 percent from a year ago, after Meta posted a 1 percent decrease last quarter. Advertising revenue came in at $27.2 billion, down nearly 4 percent year-over-year (although that figure beat analysts’ estimates of $26.9 billion). Since advertising represents 98.2 percent of the company’s total revenue, the revenue drop is especially worrisome for Meta.

So, what’s causing the meltdown?

Weakening Demand

The biggest factor: diminishing demand for ad products caused by market uncertainty. In a call with investors, CFO Dave Wehner cited “weak advertising demand, which we believe continues to be impacted by the uncertain and volatile macroeconomic landscape.” CEO Mark Zuckerberg added that “. . . it’s not clear that the economy has stabilized yet so we’re planning our budget somewhat more conservatively.” As a result, Meta predicted that ad revenues will be $30 billion to $32.5 billion for the fourth quarter, below analysts’ expectations of $32.2 billion. (That level would represent another decline from a year ago, when total revenue was $33.67 billion.)

The TikTok Factor

The company, like Google, also faces rising competition from TikTok, whose popular short-form videos have generated a sharp increase in advertising revenue. According to Statista, TikTok generated $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2021, a figure that is expected to double by 2024 and triple by 2026. Digiday reported recently that ad agencies are shifting content creation from Instagram and YouTube to TikTok. In April, Insider Intelligence predicted that TikTok’s ad revenue will grow 184 percent to nearly $6 billion in 2023 (that amount tops Twitter and Snap combined).

To fight TikTok, Meta has given priority to the development and growth of Reels, its short-form video format on Facebook and Instagram. Meta is now seeing 140 billion Reels plays across Facebook and Instagram each day, which is a 50 percent increase from six months ago, according to Zuckerberg.

But Reels doesn’t monetize as effectively as the company’s other types of content. So, as Meta pivots toward showing more short-form video, Meta is taking a quarterly revenue headwind of more than $500 million, Zuckerberg told investors. Meta expects to get to a more neutral place with this shift within the next 12 to 18 months.

“As Reels grows, we’re displacing revenue from higher-monetized surfaces,” Zuckerberg told investors. “That’s clearly the right thing to do.”

The Apple Factor

Meta continues to grapple with the fall-out of Apple’s privacy controls, known as App Tracking Transparency (ATT). Meta said its average ad price decreased 18 percent on the year, as it adjusts to Apple’s changes that make it harder for Meta to track users and serve them personalized advertising. In the same quarter last year, the average price per ad climbed 22 percent.

But Meta also said that the blow to ad revenue caused by ATT is diminishing. Per CFO Dave Wehner, “Consistent with our expectations, the headwind to year-over-year growth from Apple’s ATT changes diminished in Q3 as we lapped the first full quarter post the launch of iOS14.5.”

But Apple isn’t done punishing Meta. Apple recently changed its App Store terms to take a portion of social-media advertising revenue. The policy change requires users and advertisers to make an in-app purchase when they pay to boost posts in apps like TikTok and Meta’s Instagram. Apple takes a commission of as much as 30 percent on in-app purchases, meaning a company like Meta would lose a portion of its ad revenue to the iPhone maker.

The company also faced stiff criticism from investors over its continued push into the metaverse, which has cost the company billions of dollars. Although the company’s metaverse investments technically do not affect its ad revenue – they’re more of a drain on profits than anything else – they have raised concerns that Meta is taking its eye off its core social media growth engine in the web 2.0 world.

The Good News

But on the bright side, Meta reported that:

  • Daily Active Users (DAUs) for the quarter were: 1.98 billion versus 1.98 billion expected, according to StreetAccount. That was up from 1.97 billion three months ago. 
  • Monthly Active Users (MAUs): 2.96 billion versus 2.94 billion expected, according to StreetAccount

Meta said Instagram now claims more than 2 billion monthly active users, while WhatsApp’s user base has surpassed 2 billion daily active users, with North America being the messaging app’s fastest-growing region.

What This Means for Advertisers

So, what does all this mean for advertisers? Well, now might be an opportune time to advertise on Meta, with its user base being strong and average ad prices decreasing. The company is rolling out new ad products to improve the monetization of Reels, and a new “Performance 5” framework, which is a set of five data-proven tactics that can help to improve advertising performance on Meta platforms amid tighter privacy controls. For instance, broad targeting consists of an automated targeting approach that reportedly produces better results for Facebook and Instagram ads than more refined, more niche audience approaches.

Meta, like its competitors, faces some difficult times amid economic uncertainty. But businesses that are taking the long view with their advertising efforts may turn out to be the winners so long as they don’t push the brakes on their online advertising efforts.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with social media advertising, contact True Interactive. We have extensive experience helping businesses succeed on social media.

How Meta Is Defending Its Advertising Turf

How Meta Is Defending Its Advertising Turf

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Meta, the second-largest online advertising platform in the world, faces numerous challenges ranging from stricter privacy controls to the emergence of new competitors such as Amazon Ads and TikTok. Meta, like the market leader Google, is defending its position the best way it knows how: rolling out new ad products.

On October 3, Meta announced new ways for advertisers to reach the company’s user base, which encompass brands such as Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger. They include:

  • Post-loop ads on Facebook Reels. The skippable video ads, ranging from four to 10 seconds in length, play at the conclusion of a Reel, followed by the original Reel resuming and looping again. (Instagram Reels already have ads.)
  • Image carousel ads for Facebook Reels. These are horizontally scrollable and can include anywhere from two to 10 image ads. They appear at the bottom of Reels content.
  • Ads in creators’ profile feeds. These are aimed at giving creators another monetization option and will allow them to earn extra income from ads within the content they already have in their profile. This ad format is being tested with a small number of creators in the United States. A Meta spokesperson told Adweek that company will make it clear that creators are not affiliated with the ads that appear in their profile feeds.

Meta also announced new spaces available for advertisers on both the Explore page of Instagram, within Facebook Reels and on creators pages.

But wait – there’s more! Instagram also launched a series of ad formats. For instance, Instagram  is developing an open beta of augmented reality ads in feed and Stories. This makes it possible for brands to provide an immersive AR ad experience and encourage people to interact via their surroundings.

Instagram is also offering new multiadvertiser ads that use machine learning to serve ads from other businesses under an ad that may be of interest to the user. In theory these will help advertisers be discovered by Instagram users who are already in a shopping mindset. The new option is only enabled for direct-response objectives. Advertisers will have to opt in, with the opportunity to opt out whenever they choose.

The most interesting take-away from Meta’s new ad formats is the way Meta is trying to monetize the value of Reels for creators and Meta. For in-Reel Facebook ads, creators would get 55 percent of the revenue, while Meta would get 45 percent. The more consumers see Reels, the less time they spend in the legacy parts of the platform like the main feed.

In a July earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We saw a more than 30% increase in the time that people spent engaging with Reels across Facebook and Instagram.” If creators of Reels can make money from their participation on these platforms, they could start to win back some of the audience Meta has been losing to TikTok.

Will Meta succeed? One concern advertisers shared with Adweek is that too many ad formats could create saturation. If users feel like their experience is cluttered with too many ads, their engagement with Meta platforms will decline.

But if monetizing Reels makes Meta a more attractive destination for creators, the format could provide a credible alternative to TikTok. For now, businesses should work with their agency partners to evaluate these ad products against where their audiences are most likely engaging with their brands. If you are already achieving strong results by advertising on TikTok, for instance, Meta’s new formats might not be necessary unless you aim to court Meta’s relatively older audience (compared to TikTok). But if you’re already looking for ways to reach Meta’s audience, and you’ve been using Meta as an ad platform, these formats may hold more appeal.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with social media advertising, contact True Interactive. We have extensive experience helping businesses succeed on social media.

Where Amazon, Google, and Meta Are Headed

Where Amazon, Google, and Meta Are Headed

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Technology earnings week is always watched closely. The rising and falling fortunes of Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft have a direct impact on adjacent industries such as retail, advertising, and marketing. During a topsy turvy year such as 2022, the most recent quarterly earnings announcements of the Big Tech firms were followed especially closely. And here are some of the highlights from the Big Three of online advertising – Amazon, Google, and Meta — with implications for online advertising:

  • Amazon beat analysts’ estimates and enjoyed a strong quarter with the exception of its core retail business. The big news was the continued strong growth of Amazon Ads, which is Amazon’s advertising business that has quickly challenged Google and Meta for leadership of the online ad market. Ad revenue climbed 18% in the period for its most recent quarter. All told, Amazon Ads raked in $8.76 billion in the second quarter. Notably, in its earnings announcement, Amazon highlighted the recent launch of Amazon Marketing Stream, which “automatically delivers hourly Sponsored Products campaign metrics to advertisers or agencies through the Amazon Ads API.” This is a sign that Amazon is developing ad tech data and marketing services, which is a direct challenge to Google. What it means: the success of Amazon Ads dovetails with the ascendance of a more privacy-focused era. Apple in particular has initiated privacy controls that make it more difficult for advertisers to target consumers with ads that use third-party data. Amazon Ads is beyond the reach of such privacy controls because Amazon Ads is based on first-party data that Amazon collects from its customers. Amazon is not the only retail business building its own ad network. But it’s the leader. We expect more businesses will choose Amazon Ads as an advertising platform, and we have developed services accordingly.
  • Meta suffered its first-ever revenue drop for the quarter. The reasons are complicated. First off, TikTok is threatening the popularity of Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Meta), and Meta’s response to TikTok, Reels, doesn’t generate money as efficiently as Instagram Stories and the main news feed. Meta has also reeled from the impact of Apple’s privacy controls. What it means: Meta is in a time of transition – but never count out Meta. The company is investing heavily into the emerging metaverse, which is dragging its profits down but may boost Meta over the long run. And although Reels are a work in progress, progress is being made. As analysts at JMP wrote, “With Meta making progress with Reels while AI improves recommendations across content and advertising, we expect growth to rebound from current levels while the company is more disciplined in its cost structure.” And, overall, the company’s base of monthly active users continues to increase. The real threat to Meta in the near term: how well the company can rebound from the threat of Apple’s privacy controls. The long-term threat: how well Meta can attract and keep Gen Z users.
  • Google is sitting pretty. Alphabet’s search ad sales grew more than 13 percent in Q2 2022 to $40.7 billion, beating analysts’ expectations of $40.2 billion. Search, of course, is Google’s bread-and-butter business, and Google’s investments into its core search ad units are paying off as advertisers lean into performance marketing tactics amid economic uncertainty. But life isn’t all rosy at Google. At YouTube, ad sales rose 0nly 5 percent after jumping 84 percent in the same period a year ago. This reflects the impact of TikTok’s popularity. What it means: Google is going to flourish in 2022 and 2023 especially as advertisers weather economic uncertainty. Google is a safe bet, and Google continues to develop new ad units that enhance its performance marketing capabilities. Watch for Google to continue to push artificial intelligence-related services and tools that automate online advertising — while managing the increasingly thorny challenge of developing alternatives to third-party cookies, which the company had said it would do by 2022 and now is rescheduling for 2024.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Keep a diversified ad portfolio across the Big Three: Amazon, Google, and Meta. If you are satisfied with the results you are seeing, don’t let Meta’s challenges scare you away. But do a gut check with your agency partner on how your ads are performing.
  • Work closely with your agency partners to understand the impact of privacy controls, especially from Apple.
  • If Gen Z is an important audience, take a closer look at TikTok. TikTok looms large as it challenges YouTube and Meta especially.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

What Does Meta’s Big Move with Horizon Worlds Mean to Brands?

What Does Meta’s Big Move with Horizon Worlds Mean to Brands?

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced that the company will help individual creators generate income in Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform. This is a significant sign that the so-called metaverse will open up ways for people to monetize the metaverse as it takes shape.

What Is the Metaverse?

The metaverse is a shared virtual world where people can work, play, and live through digital twins, or avatars. Aspects of the metaverse are here already: every time we use a digital currency, every time we hang out on Fortnite or Roblox (gaming is currently a big slice of the metaverse), we’re engaging with parts of the metaverse. They’re just not connected seamlessly yet.

Businesses such as Meta aren’t waiting for all the details to get sorted, though: they are staking a claim to this nascent world by building their own virtual worlds.

What Is Horizon Worlds?

So, what exactly is Meta trotting out? Horizon Worlds (formerly Facebook Horizon) is a free virtual reality, online video game that allows people to build and explore virtual worlds on the metaverse. In short, Horizon Worlds is one potential access point into the metaverse via a gaming platform.

Meta first published the game on its virtual reality Oculus VR headsets in the United States and Canada on December 9, 2021. This approach meant that the audience for Horizon World was necessarily limited to people who could afford a virtual reality headset (specifically, Oculus VR). But Meta is now making Horizon Worlds available even if users do not have virtual reality headsets.

What Did Meta Announce about Horizon Worlds?

Mark Zuckerberg said Meta is testing new tools that allow creators to expand their reach—and create some lucrative opportunities—within the worlds they build on Horizon Worlds. In a video, he said, “The ability to sell virtual items and access to things inside the worlds is a new part of [the] e-commerce equation overall. We’re starting rolling this out with just a handful of creators and we’ll see how it goes but I imagine that over time we’ll get to roll it out more and more.”

If there’s anything Meta wants you to take away from this development, that would be:

  • Meta is testing a way for creators to sell virtual items and experiences within their worlds.
  • Meta is also testing a Horizon Worlds Creator Bonus program.

While Meta is currently working with a handful of creators to get feedback on this initiative, the long-term plan is to create an environment in which creators can earn a living in a world of digital goods, services, and experiences. The overall vision is that the metaverse will crack possibilities for entrepreneurs—wide open. And it’s not a matter of creators being thrown into this world without a safety net or guide: a $10 million Horizon Creators Fund, announced last October, is meant to provide resources to Horizon Worlds creators.

The opportunities are certainly compelling: Meta is rolling out a test with a few creators that facilitates the selling of virtual items within their worlds. This might manifest as attachable accessories entrepreneurs create for a fashion world, say, or paid access to a new part of a creator’s world.

Meanwhile, the Horizon Worlds Creator Bonus program, meant for participants in the United States, offers bonuses in the form of goal-oriented monthly programs that reward creators with a pay-out at month’s end. The bonuses honor progress made towards the creator’s goals, and are not subject to fees (read: creators will be paid in full). While rewards may evolve, creators are currently rewarded (in the limited test) for building worlds that attract the “most time spent.”

What Does All This Mean?

This is how we read this news:

  • Horizon Worlds is yet another sign that the metaverse is getting bigger with extraordinary speed. For confirmation, one need look no further than JP Morgan, which says the metaverse is a “trillion dollar industry” in which it acknowledges “explosive interest.” They aren’t just talking the talk: the investment bank has opened a lounge in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland. The Onyx lounge, named for JP Morgan’s Onyx blockchain unit, includes a roaming tiger that greets visitors and a portrait of CEO Jamie Dimon, not to mention a suite of Ethereum-based services. JP Morgan’s claim to fame? That it is the first major lender to enter the metaverse.
  • It’s also an example of how businesses are empowering the so-called creator economy, a class of businesses comprising millions of independent content creators and influencers. We’re hearing about creators more partly because apps like TikTok have granted them more power and more influence.

But the creator economy stands to become even more powerful. That’s because collaboration networks are proliferating, networks that give creators an all-in-one platform to create communities and build influence. In addition, gaming sites such as Roblox and Twitch offer creators opportunities to monetize their work with potential brand partnerships, even as crypto currency sites like Rally.io empower creators to mint their own currency.

It’s a rich vein to mine, and big social networks such as Meta are responding by making themselves more attractive to creators (that brings us back to the news about Horizon Worlds and the resources Meta is making available). Going forward, more businesses will tap into niche networks to partner with emerging creators who are lesser-known but possess tremendous street cred. Will big-name partnerships with stars still thrive? Sure, but the social media icons are going to need to make room for the new kids in town.

What Brands Should Do

What does this mean for your brand? As you consider the opportunities inherent in the metaverse, we recommend that you:

  • Remember your audience. Do they care about the immersive worlds that the metaverse makes possible? That is, will marketing and advertising in the metaverse even matter to them—much less reach them? The biggest audience for the metaverse currently skews young, although some brands are making a concerted effort to reach out to older consumers. Ask yourself who your audience is, and if you have the resources and energy to reach out to them if their engagement with the metaverse represents a tougher sell.
  • Reflect on your appetite for experimentation. This is a new frontier that is already evolving. Are you ready to pivot—and pivot again—as conditions change?
  • Learn from businesses that have already found their marketing access point in immersive gaming worlds, which are, as noted, a popular segment of the metaverse.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about the metaverse? Eager to dip a toe but looking for some guidance? Contact us. We can help you map a way in this new world.

Meta Misses the Mark; How Should Advertisers React?

Meta Misses the Mark; How Should Advertisers React?

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Over the years, Facebook has been a Teflon brand. No matter how many controversies and setbacks the company has faced, it has seen its stock price and market capitalization soar. But all that changed on February 2 when Facebook’s parent company Meta announced earnings for the fourth quarter 2021. The company:

  • Missed its earnings estimates.
  • Reported that Facebook’s global daily active users declined from the previous quarter to 1.929 billion from 1.930 billion. Although Facebook has experienced drops in the United States before, this was the first time the world’s most popular social platform had experienced a decline in its user base.
  • Forecast weaker-than-expected revenue growth for the next quarter.
  • Said that the company would suffer a $10 billion revenue hit in 2022 because of the impact of Apple’s iPhone privacy controls launched in 2021.

Investors were stunned. The next day, Meta suffered a 26 percent drop in its stock price – the largest single-day drop in history. Not just for Meta. For any company.

Companies can have a bad quarter. But why did Meta suffer a historic drop in its stock price? There is no single, clear-cut answer. But a few factors no doubt played a role:

  • The drop in users, although not massive, stoked concerns that Facebook is finally beginning to feel the impact of its ongoing brand safety controversies and indifference from the growing Gen Z population. Losing members can be a red flag for advertisers, and Facebook needs advertising revenue to succeed.
  • Meta surprised investors by saying it still has not recovered from the impact of Apple’s consumer privacy controls. In 2021, Apple altered its operating system to require apps to get a person’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. This move curtailed the ability for advertisers and ad platforms such as Facebook to target digital ads across the web. Ad platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter said that the restrictions were either not hurting them or that they had figured out satisfactory ways to keep creating effective ads despite the existence of the privacy controls. It was alarming to hear that Meta had not figured out a solution yet.
  • Meta’s big bet on the next generation of the internet, the metaverse, is costing the company – a lot. Meta said that the company spent $10 billion in 2021 on various products that form the building blocks of the metaverse. That spend hurt profits. And the metaverse is still many years away, which has made investors ask: just how much is the metaverse going to cost Meta?

Even still, Facebook achieved $33.67 billion in ad revenue for the quarter, which was better than expected. Should Facebook’s advertisers be concerned? As an agency that helps many businesses build their brands and convert customers through Facebook advertising, we believe that if you advertise on Facebook, you should:

  • Keep advertising on Facebook if you are satisfied with your results so far. Based on our client work, Facebook continues to drive conversions even though the cost per conversion has increased and conversion rates are lower. Facebook remains an efficient and cost-effective alternative to competing platforms.
  • Adapt to the new reality of Facebook advertising. One of the challenges with Facebook advertising under Apple’s privacy controls is having access to less user data for targeting various audience segments with ads. We’ve been working with Facebook to develop workarounds such grouping our clients’ target audiences together to give the Facebook algorithm more data to work with a (as opposed to breaking up audiences into separate groups). We’ve also removed audience exclusions from campaigns. After we aggregated audience data and removed exclusions, we gradually began to see an improvement in ad conversions following a drop resulting from the privacy controls.
  • Keep an eye on the decline in users. Understand where they’re going when they leave Facebook. In particular, Facebook said that TikTok has emerged as a much stronger competitor. TikTok is especially red hot with the Gen Z generation. In addition, monitor sentiment among your audiences, foremost your customers. In light of Facebook’s ongoing controversies over privacy and the publication of harmful content, are your customers expressing concern? Is your brand safety at risk? (This may or may not be the case. As we’ve blogged before, social media will always be a messy place to live, and many brand have learned to live alongside that reality.

Advertisers have more choices than ever – emerging apps such as TikTok, retailer ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising, to name a few. The well-established ad platforms such as Google continue to launch new products. As always, we urge advertisers to stay on top of the evolving market. At True Interactive, we advocate for our clients by understanding how the ad industry is changing so that we can maximize clients’ return on ad spend. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash