What Is A Facebook Ad Part 1

They are all over the news… and all over your newsfeed.

Facebook Ads have quickly become the “must-have” media buying tool for businesses worldwide, earning the support of over 6-million businesses in 2018.

The hype seems to be everywhere these days, but if you are like most Facebook users, you probably aren’t completely clear on exactly what the buzz is all about.

So what exactly are Facebook Ads, and why should you care?


Backstory: Born in a Dorm

Before we dive head-first into the jungle of digital media buying, let’s rewind back to a quiet day in an undergrad dorm at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A pair of roommates in room H33 at Kirkland House were busy concocting a plan that would revolutionize communication and mass media, but the boys had no clue yet how far this fantasy would take them.

Mark and Dustin originally envisioned a connected campus, where every student’s contact info was only a simple click away.

Regardless of their initial motives, the human desire for social interaction quickly turned the boy’s backroom project into a multinational media conglomerate with an army of users over two billion strong!

But long before it became the go-to tool for digital marketing, “TheFacebook,” as it was originally named, faced a problem of its own.

The social network was rapidly outgrowing its ability to support itself, and in spite of multiple infusions of venture capital, it became clear early on that if this was going to continue to be a viable business, they would need to develop a system to support it financially.

Early efforts at affordable advertising options included online gambling platforms and large banks, both of which agreed to pay the platform for new user signups.

However, this cash cow went south quickly when the U.S. made online gambling illegal in 2006, forcing Facebook to drop some of its most profitable clients.


Enter Microsoft

Everything changed in 2007 when the mighty Microsoft agreed to purchase a small stake in the fledgling Facebook.

Backing from the biggest brand in tech provided both the credibility and the cash to keep the company on its unprecedented upward trajectory.

In exchange for a paltry 1.6% share of Facebook, Microsoft agreed to pay a staggering sum of $240 million.

What was even more important than the significant infusion of cash however, were the additional terms of the deal.

Microsoft would become Facebook’s exclusive provider of banner advertising and sponsored links as an important condition of the agreement.

This move would set the stage for Facebook’s eventual evolution into one of the largest paid advertising platforms on the planet.

Sunshine in my pocket

When Facebook first launched its mobile app, it opened an entire Pandora’s Box of paid media.

The possibilities seemed endless, and the ability to reach consumers at any place and any time, powered by Facebook’s rapid adoption by millions of users, created a virtual “Gold Rush” for marketers and media buyers who were quick to spot the unprecedented outreach opportunity.

“Clicks into cash” became the unofficial slogan on several underground forums who heralded the new Wild West era of paid advertising.

For whom the bell tolls (Hint: It’s print)

The spiraling costs of print advertising, coupled with the incredibly inexpensive opportunity now available on the platform, created a situation in which huge corporations, who were traditionally hesitant to incorporate new media, flocked to the platform in record numbers.

An unstoppable force

This perfect confluence of events created a situation in which Facebook’s resources grew almost overnight from startup to staggering.

Continual innovations have kept them ahead of almost every potential contender in the market for paid media.

Additional ad formats were added and perfected, and soon Video, Carousel and Lead Ads were giving businesses unprecedented opportunities for growth.

Retargeting promised even cheaper clicks than ever before.

And audience insights, based on highly granular analytical data, created a scenario that advertisers could have only dreamed about less than a decade prior.

In 2015 Facebook completely changed the game yet again, with the launch of the Pixel.

Now, along with every possible ad format imaginable, marketers have at their disposal performance data, conversion tracking, custom audiences, and retargeting… and it’s all just a click away.


Fast forward to the Facebook Ads platform of today, and you almost have to wonder how anyone got along in the “old days” before it existed!

Almost any advertising option a business could imagine is already available, and yet the innovations continue to come in waves.


Whew… that was a ride!

But now that we know what Facebook Ads are, we can take a deep dive into the different types of Facebook Ads and a few best practices for different Facebook Ad formats.

We will also drill down into the different styles and sizes of Facebook Ads.

In Part 2 we will look more closely at the micro view of what Facebook Ads are, addressing in greater detail the types, sizes, and best uses for the various options available, along with a closer look at some of the best practices for their use.

So in the next few sections, some of the topics we plan to cover will be:

We will see you in the next section!