The Frustration of Facebook Ads

With 500 million Facebook users globally, half of which log in every day, it’s no surprise that Facebook has become an integral part of online marketing. In fact, according to a recent ComScore report, Facebook now controls nearly 25% of the online market share. In an effort to begin turning a profit in 2007, Facebook introduced Facebook Ads. During the last quarter, the big FB has provided advertisers with more than 297 billion display ad impressions. Facebook Ads accounted for revenue exceeding $500 million in 2009 for Facebook. This number is expected to double in 2010.

You would expect such a highly used tool to be fairly intuitive. Sadly…this is far from the case. When compared to other ad tools, Facebook is almost comically difficult to use especially for business/enterprise users.

To help illustrate this point, I attempted to setup a business profile for the purpose of creating ads. Along the way I will take the opportunity to vent my frustrations with Facebook Ads in general.

Step 1. Create a business profile. Setup an ad or Fan page:

That’s right! Facebook places a baffling roadblock between you and your business account. You need to either create an ad or a Fan page before you can take a peek at the backend. The reason for this is unclear to me but if your goal is a business profile then you need to do one of the two in order to continue. This really set the tone for the remainder of the process.

I took the Ad route for this attempt:

Step 1a. Design an Ad:


If you’ve created PPC ads on other platforms you’ll find one noticeable difference: capitalization. I filled out the destination URL and Title with little problem but when it came to the Body Text I learned about Facebook’s “capitalization guidelines”.

From the Facebook site:

“You can only capitalize the first letter of the sentence along with all proper nouns, such as an individual or location’s names, days of the week and months, and cities, states, and countries.”

If you don’t follow these rules you’ll see this warning text:


I made the adjustments and tried to submit my ad except this time I received an error telling me I needed to choose an image… Now, I understand the purpose of having an image on an ad. I understand why it may not be a good idea to run an ad without one, but try to keep in mind the purpose of this exercise is to create a business account! Just to be clear, you need to have a dummy image handy if you plan on making a business account. Amazing. The process keeps getting longer…

Ok, so I designed my ad… now I need to set the targeting info:

Step 1b: Targeting


I put Location and Demographic info in then moved onto to “Likes & Interests”. Depending on what keyword you chose, Facebook will make suggestions related to the keyword you selected. The main problem with this tool is if you don’t like any of their suggestions then you have to continue on with guesses. There is no basic listing of suggestions. The only way you can see suggestions is in real-time as you type.


Additional Rant: There is also the problem with the search box not allowing you to copy and paste. This is a pretty huge problem that only compounds itself when you’re running several campaigns that need modifying. With no ability to copy & paste, a quick 15 minute campaign modification turns into hours!

Step 1c: Campaigns, Pricing and Scheduling

This step has the most long term implications of any other step. Of course, this was unknown to me when I first embarked on this adventure.


This is where I discovered one of the biggest problems of forcing people to create an ad before creating an account. The currency you choose at this step becomes the default currency for the account you create. That, in and of itself, is not a huge issue. The problem comes when you decide to change it later on.

Rant Begins: When you change the currency of your account, Facebook actually creates a separate account under your business profile. Why do they do this? I haven’t a clue. But this second account doesn’t copy the billing information from the first so if you start any campaigns on this new account then they won’t launch. You’re required to re-enter your billing information on the second account. Facebook never indicates this is the case when you try to sign up. Again, keep in mind I am still just creating a test ad for the purpose of signing up in the first place!

The next big problem with this process is in the schedule section. By default, Facebook sets ‘Today’ as the starting time for your campaign. You may think that’s not a big deal because it’s just a test ad, right? Well it is a big deal.

Rant initiated: Once you’ve created the ad you can begin the process of creating a business profile. Part of this process involves putting in your billing information. The second you’ve done this, guess what happens to the test ad you created? Yep, it’s launched.
This brings me to one final annoyance of setting up a business profile: Birthdays.


It may not seem like a huge deal but it just shows how little effort Facebook has put into Facebook Ads. There really is no reason for Facebook to know the birthday of a person running the ads. It seems obvious the only reason the field is there is because they’ve used the same signup form as they use for personal profiles where birthdates are required by law. Is it really too much effort to remove this requirement?

Facebook Ads accounts for over 80% of Facebook’s revenue. It’s been 3 years since its launch and I think we’re overdue for some much needed usability improvements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *