Facebook Exchange Performance: Good, Not Yet Peerless

AdRoll-FBX-v-Standard-Retargeting-Campaign-in-H22012-Feb2013A pair of studies have emerged looking at the performance of Facebook Exchange (FBX), a real-time bidding (RTB) marketplace for Facebook inventory, offering Facebook’s tremendous reach (it ranked as the 4th largest web property by unique visitors in December 2012, per comScore) to programmatic buyers. The first study, from Adobe, looks at preliminary results from its advertising customers using FBX, while the second, from AdRoll, measures FBX against standard web retargeting for a set of advertisers using both.

The results show that while the preliminary results are encouraging, and worthy of the hype, FBX hasn’t yet outplayed all other alternatives.

The Adobe data is from the Adobe Media Optimizer, an integrated digital advertising platform that “allows customers to retarget audiences across Facebook’s 1 billion users and seamlessly align their digital advertising efforts across display, social, and search.” Beta clients running retargeting campaigns through Adobe’s demand-side platform tested 8 of the most popular RTB supply sources, including FBX. After one month in beta, FBX’s conversion rate (leads/clicks) proved to be roughly 70% higher than the average for all 8 sources, while its cost-per-lead was more than 50% lower.

According to the report, FBX ended up the second-best performing ad supply source overall from the 8 tested (the top source was not disclosed).

Meanwhile, AdRoll believes that it represents more than half of the advertisers currently leveraging FBX. Out of the more than 700 advertisers it represents on FBX, AdRoll analyzed 468 that ran both standard web retargeting and FBX campaigns during the second half of 2012.

On a positive note, cost-per-thousand (CPM) on FBX was 82% lower than the standard retargeting campaign, while cost-per-click (CPC) was also 70% lower. However, the results also showed that FBX underperformed the standard retargeting campaign on a couple of key measures. Click-through rates on FBX were 40.2% lower. For example, in December 2012, while Facebook represented 63% of retargeting impressions, it accounted for a relatively smaller 45% of retargeting clicks. AdRoll also found that cost-per-unique on FBX was 86% higher than on the standard web retargeting campaign, indicating that the standard campaign was able to reach a “larger, more distinct audience for less spend.”

AdRoll concludes that “both web retargeting and Facebook Exchange have their strengths and are tremendously effective marketing channels.” The subtext of that statement is that while it’s performing well, it’s too early to abandon all other avenues in favor of FBX.