Why Facebook’s Campaign Budget Optimisation is the equivalent of every horse racing fan’s favourite dream

Imagine a horse race in which you place £50 bets on two different horses.  One horse gradually falls behind the leaders, destined to limp in last, probably losing you your stake.  Meanwhile, the other horse you have backed sails into the lead, setting the pace at the front.  Given the option, wouldn’t every ‘punter’ want to quickly disinvest in the slow horse mid-race, and transfer the money across into the winning horse – it would quickly increase your stake on the successful horse, and make you more money from the same race, without forcing you to invest any more than your £100 initial investment.

That, in a nutshell, is Facebook’s Campaign Budget Optimisation (CBO). 

CBO has been around for some time, but from September 2019 Facebook have announced that it’s going to be a fixed default that can’t be turned off[1].  Where previously you might have had the option, Facebook will now automatically switch the money to your successful horse without asking you.  

At first glance, this seems a sensible and helpful tool which has lots of benefits for the business user, but there are some issues which you may want to consider in order to avoid the pitfalls that this new update could create.  Before we launch into these, it’s important to understand a couple of technical differences.

The difference between Campaigns and Ad Sets

Campaigns (the horse race) contain a number of Ad Sets (the horses) and Ad Sets contain a number of different Ads. Today, when users set daily or lifetime budget limits, it’s at the Ad-Set level.  For example, if a company runs a campaign with 2 different Ad-sets and specifies £20 for each as its life time budget limit, Facebook will ensure that the Ad Set won’t cost more than that. 

In the current tool, if one Ad Set is particularly successful and the other fails, Facebook stops the more successful Ad Set at your predetermined budget limit, and your less successful Ad Set continues; in fact, it may not ever reach the £20 limit you budgeted for it. 

In contrast to this, CBO uses in-built algorithms to determine when an Ad-Set is doing particularly well, or poorly, and shifts across the allocated budget to reinforce success, maximising the value you have invested and ensuring that your best Ad-Sets succeed. 

The drawbacks and how to avoid them

There is, however, a potential downside to CBO becoming a fixed default.  It’s driven by an algorithm, which may not be sophisticated enough to determine and measure the more qualitative and focused objectives which businesses may have. 

Different campaigns and different Ad-Sets are often intended for different purposes.  Most businesses will invest in Ad Sets which focus on objectives which drive traffic, engagement and leads. However if your business wanted to focus on improving brand awareness in a smaller region or relationship building with your existing customers, CBO could, in theory, disinvest in the Ad-Set that you really want to focus on, transferring funds to other Ad-Sets.  The same could happen if you have created Ad-Sets for a campaign for more than one country; the country where you really want to build market share could be disinvested in, in favour of the country where you are already well placed.

Let’s return to the horse racing analogy to explain how best to avoid these pitfalls:

  • Firstly, don’t put your shire-horse in the same race as your thoroughbreds.  If you have a very specific goal for one of your Ad-Sets, then place that Ad-Set under its own campaign, and set your budget accordingly.
  • Enter your juvenile inexperienced horses in the same race together – and don’t race it against your ‘odds-on’ favourite (again, create a separate campaign for these). CBO could be a great way to experiment with new material; giving you the opportunity to run similar Ad-Sets together and benchmark success.

In the fast paced race of Facebook advertising, the platform and tools developed are constantly changing. The key is to understand these changes and adjust your tactics accordingly. The change from an option to a fixed default for CBO could be a really good thing if the stables and trainers understand the effects of change and run their own best race.

Good luck and put a bet on each way for us.