Google can be bad enough, with a paucity of humans available to answer questions and fix unjust algorithmically set penalties and the like. Earning itself the nickname the Robot Empire, Google's customer service has been limited to the bigger players, with small and medium businesses left to fend for themselves. The search giant even makes many of its rules deliberately obscure, in the hopes that this opacity will help prevent people from gaming its algorithms. That ad is declined? "Read the guidelines," comes the response. From an autoresponder. This has not gained Google accolades for service among mid-sized advertisers, or even many larger ones.
So Facebook had its work cut out for it in vying for the title of worst advertising service provider; but in the course of a very short period of time, it has managed to do just that. The stock Facebook advertiser interface is very simple - a relief in some ways from Google's sprawling set of tabs. With that simplicity comes, however, a lack of ability to do any sort of flighting, scheduling, weighting, most forms of pricing differentiation, and a good many of the types of targeting available on Adwords. But the topper, for many advertisers, is the fact that account-halting issues, such as mis-coded creative flags, are handled by a set of layers of robotic responses protecting a thin group of customer service agents from having to have direct contact with customers.
One advertiser MarketingVOX spoke to recently had an experience that proved an exception when a "Mabel" responded two days after a campaign had been halted due to robotically set creative problem flags. She was able to undo the flags, but every time that campaign was subsequently changed, such as increasing a bid by $0.01 or adding a targeting region, the creative was again re-set to the problem flag. Mabel is now engaged in an every-two-day cycle of fixing this, which suggests she is not actually a human after all, or perhaps a live human that is given only the same amount of power or discretion as Facebook's autoresponders.
Popular search blog PPC Hero typifies the industry's attitude toward Facebook's interface, noting snarkily on a feature recently added, "What’s really crazy, considering Facebook’s reluctance to actually be user friendly, is that you can add a conversion value … I also recognize that it’s a miracle Facebook is tracking conversions at all – that there’s a value field too is enough to send me into a glee-induced coma."
Perhaps recognizing their failed scaling efforts in relation to their massive ad sales growth, Facebook appears to be addressing the issue in some decidedly non-Google manners. Most notably, rather than expanding or fixing the structure of their own service organization - which might indeed be impossible in the short-term at these growth rates - they are starting to outsource the service to third Third Party Marketing Developer parties. In essence, they are offloading large swaths of their media into different market mechanisms that, presumably, will better serve advertisers' needs because it is not Facebook offering them.
Zach Rogers rounded up reactions from some of these partners in the face of changes Facebook is inveighing upon them, ensuring in part that they offer a comprehensive and quality experience, but also that they actually push Facebook media, presumably over that of other providers. Not surprisingly, the responses coming from the existing privileged partners were somewhat flattering to Facebook, perhaps in part because the additional fetters also provide a market protection mechanism for their existing status.
When Facebook first launched its self-serve interface, many industry watchers expected it to rapidly evolve into something more supportive and complete. Of course, third parties would create add-on front-ends to this; additional data layers; service and so on. But Facebook's strategy may instead be to move upstream to a bulk media provider distributing inventory, as it is most highly valued, to individual markets and front-ends, without deigning to create the infrastructure required to be a frontline retail media seller. Or so, it currently seems, to those who are trying to use its direct purchasing system today.