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10 min read

Meta Advantage Suite 101 – What it is, how it works, and should you use it?

The automated features within Meta’s offering are constantly evolving and data shows that 77% of advertisers utilising Meta’s automated products had saved several hours a week. With this in mind, it’s crucial to keep on top of how the platform is changing to help you increase efficiency and stay ahead of the curve. 

In this blog, we’ll delve into Meta’s range of Advantage services, the costs and benefits, and to what extent marketers can allow Meta to take control of their ad campaigns.

What is Meta Advantage?

Meta’s Advantage suite uses machine learning to automate elements of an ad campaign. Broadly, the Advantage suite aims to optimise campaigns and reduce the number of manual inputs you have to make to set up and maintain your campaigns. Meta’s machine learning algorithms mean that Advantage products can learn on an account-to-account basis and adjust strategies in real-time. Advantage products are designed to gather insight into what works best for your brand, applying this intelligence to run your campaigns smoothly with minimal user input.

What does Advantage offer?

Meta’s Advantage suite is divided into 2 parts – Advantage and Advantage+. 

Advantage services are designed to automate and optimise smaller elements of a campaign such as audiences, enhancing individual parts but not fully controlling the campaign by itself. 

Advantage+ services are where the bulk of Meta’s complex machine learning technology is used, and are intended to be used together to automate full campaigns end-to-end. Meta appears to be trying to automatically implement best practices into the campaign-building process as much as possible. 

Here are all the services currently under the Advantage banner as of January 2023:

Advantage lookalike (formerly lookalike expansion)

This identifies users outside of your lookalike parameters whom it believes are likely to generate better performance and will expand lookalike audiences to include them. It’s best to exercise caution with this feature, as it runs the risk of expanding beyond your target audience and showing your ads to users that may not find them relevant. However, Meta claims that CPA can be improved by utilising Advantage Lookalikes which could be a good option if you aren’t achieving your desired performance from your lookalike audiences.

Advantage detailed targeting (formerly detailed targeting expansion)

This is similar to Advantage lookalike, however, it applies to audiences defined by traits/interests rather than lookalikes. It broadens your audiences based on where strong performance is predicted to come from and will continue to make adjustments as your campaign runs. We’ve found it useful for casting the net wider once small and/or specific audiences become saturated, so it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re looking to target niche groups.

Advantage Custom Audience

This uses your Custom Audience as a source to guide dynamic audience expansion, similar to Advantage lookalike and Advantage detailed targeting. It’s automatically turned on for all campaigns that include a website, mobile or engagement custom audience. You’ll need to opt-out if you don’t want to use this feature. Similarly to the other Advantage audience products, we’ve found Advantage Custom Audience useful for boosting reach in cases where the volume of previous customers or website visitors is low.

Advantage+ app campaigns (formerly automated app ads)

This aims to automate and simplify the process of creating and running app install campaigns. It uses machine learning algorithms to determine the best combinations of creatives, copy, placements and audiences to improve app campaign effectiveness.

Everything is amalgamated into one campaign, one ad set, and one ad in a simple structure designed to streamline the app campaign process.

Advantage+ placements (formerly Automatic Placements)

This determines the best placements for your ads across Meta’s platforms, based on the algorithm’s prior experience and data gathered during the course of your campaign. This feature can save a substantial amount of time, reducing the need to manually choose and review where your ads are shown.

Whilst this eliminates the need to manually select placements, Meta warns that ‘not all advertisers will see improved performance’. In many circumstances, this feature can save you a lot of time, however, it’s important to keep an eye on where your ads are appearing, as Meta’s placements can sometimes be suboptimal for your particular goals.

When the full range of creative variants are not provided by the creator of the campaign, Meta will occasionally make dimension errors when matching creatives to ad formats. Performance in some placements can often be notably worse than others depending on the campaign objective. When using Advantage+ Placements, keep an eye on placement breakdowns to make sure you’re getting the best results and revert to manual if you see room for efficiency.

Advantage+ creative (formerly dynamic experiences)

This optimises your creatives via a range of ‘standard enhancements’, including adjusting image brightness and contrast, applying filters, cropping, adding music, and adding templates. Meta’s algorithms will then present different versions of your ad creatives to different people, depending on what it believes they are likely to respond to. 

Whilst being an innovative and interesting technology that allows for some individual personalisation within your audiences, this tool should be used with some caution as it ultimately removes your control and can impact the consistency of your creatives.

Advantage+ shopping campaigns

Advantage+ shopping campaigns (ASC) left beta in mid-August 2022 and are being rolled out more widely. The most comprehensive of all Advantage services, it is capable of automating an entire campaign from start to finish, and aims to ‘eliminate the manual steps of ad creation’. Up to 150 creative combinations can be automated at the same time to optimise the distribution of advertising budgets with minimal input from the user, offering personalised products from your catalogue to both prospecting and remarketing audiences under one campaign – potentially signalling the end of messaging tailored by funnel stages! 

You can, however, set a spend limit on what proportion of your budget is allocated to prospecting vs remarketing audiences.

Meta claims that Advantage+ Shopping campaigns generated a 12% lower CPA across 15 A/B tests when compared to standard campaigns. Reminiscent of Google’s Performance Max campaigns, this tool could potentially revolutionise campaign creation for busy or inexperienced marketers, streamlining and optimising the process.

However, it’s still early days for this product. Though Meta’s claims had us hoping ASCs would be a roaring success, Impression’s trials have yielded some inconsistent results. 

Revenue and ROAS both decreased during our tests, and we found ourselves requiring more control over spend and creative at different funnel stages. So a word of caution to advertisers – test, test, test before abandoning your existing structures!

Advantage+ catalogue ads

Formerly known as dynamic ads, Advantage+ catalogue ads use machine learning to automatically deliver items from a large catalogue to potential customers by matching products to their interests and actions.

These ads appear the same as any other ad, however, they are personalised to each customer based on what products they’re most likely to want to buy, which can be targeted based on users taking actions on your website, or to a much broader audience using Meta’s estimate of what products they’re likely to be interested in. 

Also available are Advantage+ international catalogue ads, which will automatically show users products with the correct information for their language and location. Advantage+ catalogue ads are brilliant to target users at various funnel stages. They allow you to match the right products to the right people, be it a specific or broad audience. This is exceptionally useful for ecommerce businesses with a wide range of products where creating individual ads for each product would be costly and time-consuming.

Other noteworthy automation services

Campaign budget optimisation

Rather than manually allocating a static budget to each ad set, Meta ads manager allows you to simply set a maximum budget at the campaign level, and Meta’s machine learning model will manage the budget each ad set receives based on where it believes it will produce the best performance. This tool is dynamic and reacts to changes very quickly, allowing advertisers to somewhat relax when it comes to managing budget allocation. 

That being said, no tool is perfect, and campaign budgets do have their shortcomings. It’s sensible to keep a close eye on how your ad sets are spending, as Meta can be rather ruthless with decreasing and increasing spend, which could lead to some of your ad sets being allocated a smaller budget before you are able to see for yourself how they’re performing.

Dynamic creative

Dynamic creative will use 10 variations of ad copy and 10 variations of media, serving various different combinations based on what it thinks your audience will be receptive to.

Should I use these automation services?

By introducing these automation tools, Meta aims to reduce the time marketers have to plan and monitor their campaigns and minimise risks associated with experimenting beyond best practices. Meta’s existing ad setup is accessible and user-friendly for marketers with more limited experience in building Meta ad campaigns. 

At the same time, Meta is gaining more control over the way ads run across its platforms. Although convenient, this may not suit all marketers as they contribute to the transition of Meta ad services into more of a so-called ‘black box’, meaning that its AI’s decision-making processes isn’t always readily available for scrutiny, and knowledge of how your campaigns are being managed is ultimately handed over to Meta.

Although Meta encourages marketers to make use of its Advantage suite, whether or not you should apply its features to your own campaigns depends on a range of factors.

If you’re new to Meta advertising and you’re running multiple campaigns across several businesses, or you’re simply pushed for time, Meta’s automation services are a favourable option. It allows you to set up campaigns quickly and easily, and won’t require any user input other than monitoring performance on a regular basis.

Despite Meta providing some compelling statistics for its Advantage services, we’ve seen a mixed bag in terms of performance when running our own trials.

Meta clearly views automation as the way forward, and as a result, running entirely manual campaigns is becoming more difficult as Meta develops Advantage & Advantage+ services. 

It is essential to stay up-to-date on these advancements and to know the latest tools available to you. However, it is advisable to thoroughly test these yourself and monitor campaign performance closely during the rollout of any new feature. 

If you’re a seasoned marketer and if you’ve got time on your hands, or you’re only running a handful of campaigns, it might be worth managing your campaigns manually. You’ll have much more control over your campaigns, however, limited machine learning and data density. Segmenting campaigns can make it easier to identify when things are going wrong, when things can be improved and where there are areas of untapped potential. 

To keep up to date with the evolution of Meta’s suite of automation tools, check back here for the latest from Impression on Meta’s advantage suite. For more updates on everything in the world of Paid Social, check out our blogs.