Whether you are advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Google, Snapchat, or any other marketing platform, third party advertising tools are everywhere. The minute you start advertising online, you will be targeted by many advertising tools that claim that they have the secret sauce to skyrocket your ad’s performance.
If you are not familiar with the term, advertising tools are tools that allow you to manage your ads directly through them. For example, instead of running ads directly on Facebook, and advertising tool offers you a direct and simpler way to manage your ads. They claim to have unique capabilities or algorithms that can outperform Facebook’s algorithm and lead to better performance. Essentially, these tools are a middleman, since they connect through an API to the actual platform and publish your ads directly to the platform you are advertising on.
See the illustration below:
Advertising tools are usually created by other advertisers because they believe that additional features not offered directly by Facebook can yield better performance. The advertising tools are usually centered around one main concept when first developed but later evolve into many new features.
Some of the more known advertising tools for Facebook ads include:
- Hootsuite Ads
All these advertising tools are not free. They cost a lot of money. Almost all advertising tools charge based on a percentage of your ad spend with a minimum charge fee. Their business model is really simple. They assume that if you spend a lot of money, you won’t mind paying a small percentage extra to top it off if they can show you that it’s worth it. But is it? Not really. Let’s explore the full reasoning below.
The logic behind the advertising tools.
All of these advertising tools were initially created to disrupt the way you manage and create ads. They often focused on a feature that was missing, making ad creation less time-consuming, or they provide better ways to optimize campaigns. Also, the interface of Facebook Ads changed vastly over the last ten years. Transparency was dramatically improved and what is available now wasn’t available then, so to some degree, the justification to create these tools might have made sense in the past.
Here is how Facebook ads manager looked at 2014.
The way that advertising tools connect to Facebook ads is through an API which is merely a set of functions and procedures that create an application. This application can access the features or data of an operating system, application, or another service. That means that Facebook decides what information to keep and what information to give partners access to. The advertising tools have access to shared information and do their best to find creative ways to give you rich tools that will help you improve your advertising results.
Although I don’t personally recommend paid advertising tools for Facebook ads, I have tried almost every single one of them. I like to prove my arguments based on data and my own experience. The biggest negative in my opinion is the high cost associated with using these popular advertising tools. I feel that your money is better invested in the ads themselves or your creatives. Here are some more issues that advertising platforms face.
- The valuable features that advertising platforms offer may become available directly within Ads Manager. In many cases, Facebook Ads offer features directly on Ads Manager for free and these are similar to the features that the paid tools have. This includes new ways to create creatives, reporting insights, and automation.
- Working against the algorithm. When you use the advertising tool, their first goal is to show results as fast as they can. Their second goal is to confuse you by creating over-complicated campaign structures. These make you believe that you are getting a lot of value and that it’s not something you can create independently. If you look at all the publications and blogs written by Facebook, you will notice that they always emphasize that you should aim to keep your ad structure as simple and broad as possible and let them do the full automation and optimization. By creating many multi-later campaigns across hundreds of different campaigns and ads, you are limiting the machine learning’s performance. The more simple the structure, the better the performance.
- How they report data. When you use an advertising tool, it generally requires full control of your ad account. When they gain control of your ad account, you should always be skeptical of how they report data. Even if they claim to get you better returns, always evaluate the data carefully. Without going into details with the way attribution works, campaigns can take credit from other campaigns and the only thing that matters is if you see an incremental increase in ROAS (return on advertising spend). Ideally, if you wanted to test results scientifically, the best way would be to create two different ad accounts and split test your audience equally. In one audience group, you would run ads directly using Facebook ads. In the second audience group, you would run ads using an advertising tool. Ensure there is no overlap and examine if the tool provides you better results than running ads directly and consider the associated fee on top of it.
- The creative problem. If you are currently in the process of researching different advertising tools, you will notice that they all talk about their abilities to create advanced targeting and audiences, but they talk very little on the creative aspect. Creating thousands of different audiences or targeting variations and heavy optimizations is generally overkill, especially considering that the algorithm is designed to perform best with the least amount of restrictions. That means campaigns work best when you keep the audience, targeting, and optimization broad. The one thing that all these platforms neglect is the ability to produce high-converting creatives. You would think that will all the clients and data they have, they would be able to give you real examples and actionable changes you could make to your creatives to make them convert better. After all, if a single creative can improve your click-through rate by 10-25%, it is likely to be worth more than any change that targeting or audience can make. Some of these tools offer creative templates (now available directly on Facebook) that are plug-and-play and allow you to create creatives fast. The problem with that is that creatives are not meant to be based on templates, they are meant to be unique. Because targeting and optimization are automated by Facebook, your area of greatest impact on performance is an uplift in creative performance. To create better creatives, it requires serious thinking, trial and error, and an ongoing process of learning and experimenting, not something that an advertising tool is capable of providing.
To be successful with Facebook Ads, you need to understand how the system works and how to use it to your advantage. Knowing that their targeting and optimization abilities work best when they have more freedom, I keep my structure as simple and basic as possible. Instead of working against the algorithm, I let my ads work along with it. It’s important to understand that machine learning is used to learn from the ad’s performance and the more data the campaigns have, the better they will perform. Features like stop-loss, aggressive bid adjustments, and automation will limit the campaigns from performing effectively. I recommend setting simple target goals and evaluating results on more of a holistic level. Evaluate your results on longer time frames, use target goals, and let the algorithm work towards achieving your goals. Once that happens, most of these third-party advertising tools become irrelevant and might hinder your results.
Also, for analyzing my results, my approach has always been to stick to the native platform I am using. If it was AdWords, I would always use the tools that AdWords offers directly. When I am working on Facebook Ads, I use the insights tools and advanced reporting that Facebook offers directly. Just remember that all these advertising tools get their information through Facebook, and you have access to the same information directly.
Last, think for a second of the financial aspect. If you spend $10,000 per month on ads and you use an advertising tool that charges you 3% of your monthly ad spend to use it, that’s $300 per month, which is $3,600 per year! I guarantee you that your money will be wisely invested elsewhere such as producing new and improved creatives. You are likely to get a better return on every dollar spent that way.
When an industry is born, supporting industries are also created. Third-party advertising tools were created by past advertisers to improve the performance of ads. Because of the way that Facebook Ads work, many of these tools hinder the performance more than help it. I recommend using the platform directly and refrain from using advertising tools while keeping your campaigns as simple and basic as possible. This will ensure that the algorithm has enough freedom to provide you the most cost-effective results.