Meta's ad platform experiences huge glitch wiping out some customers' advertising budgets

Meta's ad platform experiences huge glitch wiping out some customers' advertising budgets
According to Gizmodo, Facebook advertisers say that they experienced a strange glitch last weekend forcing them to pay as much as twice the usual ad rates. These advertisers were charged rates as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars for ads they claim that no one was able to view even though this was denied by Facebook parent Meta. This happened at 2 am last Sunday and for a brief period Meta removed all ads from its network and at the same time, it barely spoke with its advertising customers.

Meta's advertising system suffered a major glitch that wiped out some ad budgets in mere hours

The glitch affected mostly advertisers on Facebook although some Instagram advertisers were also affected. A Meta spokesman said, "A technical issue that has now been resolved caused ad delivery issues for some advertisers." Last Sunday not only did advertisers notice that they were being charged more than Meta was supposed to charge them for ads, but they also spent more money that budgeted for specific campaigns.

Amazingly, complete advertising budgets were wiped out in just a few hours. And the ads were not being shown to any more users than usual and didn't even drive more clicks despite all of the money that was being drained from advertisers' accounts. And as we mentioned earlier, some advertisers said that their ads were not being viewed at all.

The Meta spokesman added that the issue "resulted in some miscalibration for advertising campaigns that were focused on optimizing for certain sales objectives. This caused faster campaign spending, resulting in more variable costs. We do not have evidence that we charged customers for ads that no one saw. If no impression occurred, the advertiser would not be charged."

Typically, a company might lay out money for a two-week ad campaign. Say the company budgeted $5,000 for the campaign. Meta would control exactly how much money would be spent and when it would be spent. Advertisers would have access to metrics showing how well the ad campaign was working but wouldn't know anything beyond that. They can look at a status page that shows them when Meta's systems are down.

Meta allows the platform to spend 25% over the daily amount budgeted by each company and the Meta spokesman said that "We do not have evidence of exceeding this 25% increase on daily budgets amid the technical issue on Sunday, however."

The advertisers affected by the glitch were forced to make a tough decision. They could temporarily pause their ad campaigns or keep the status quo and hope that Meta would straighten things out. For small companies that depend on these ads to generate business, the problem could be a major one. Advertisers don't like to put up a big fuss and make noise because Meta and Google together own 50% of the digital advertising market.

Advertisers affected will get a refund from Meta, but it won't be quick and it won't be easy

Long-time advertising consultant Barry Holt, who has a decade's experience managing Facebook advertising campaigns, said, "We shouldn’t have to take action when Facebook has a bug. But for the small business who don’t have an ear at Facebook, there aren’t a lot of options. Meta is just counting on advertisers to bend over and take it." Holt adds, "Meta is extremely opaque, and it always has been. All we get is a generic explanation that 'we are aware of an issue.' That’s better than nothing, but it’s not enough."

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Meta has admitted that the events of last Sunday did happen and promised to initiate its "normal refund policies." But as the ad consultant notes, this is not a quick, smooth, and painless process. "You can burn hours and resources complaining and begging them for refunds and credits. Sometimes it works, but it may not be worth the investment," Holt said. "And when the restitution comes, it can be months later."

Media strategist Eric Seufert wrote in a tweet last week, "Meta's ad platform experienced an irregularity today that saw many advertisers' campaigns dramatically increase spend with poor performance. Meta's communications about this situation with advertisers have been woefully inadequate. This is unacceptable and insulting."

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