Facebook brand awareness optimization a breakthrough for brand marketers

Facebook BAO

Facebook announced Brand Awareness Optimised (BAO) campaigns on September 28, 2015. It provides advertisers with a new way to bid when the goal of a campaign is increased brand awareness. Similar to a reach-optimised buy, Facebook is billing advertisers upon impression serving. This change adds yet another buying method to Facebook’s platform, and serves to better align buying methods with campaign / business goals (something we see as being a trend in their offering).


Over the past six years, large advertisers across all verticals have run thousands of Nielsen Brand Effect studies to gauge the impact of their media. Cumulatively, this provided Facebook with a rich data set describing the relationship between media performance as measured by Facebook metrics (engagement rate, etc.) and positive Brand Effect results.

After conducting a meta-analysis of several hundred of these studies, Facebook determined that it was not only campaign reach, but also dwell time on an ad, that consistently drove ad recall across all verticals. Unlike clicks, which have limited predictive ability due to the small percentage of an audience that interacts with ads on Facebook, dwell time is broadly predictive of behaviour even among users who don’t click. The BAO buying method takes this into account, optimising delivery of ads for both high reach (ads will serve to new users before serving a previously served user) and users who are more likely than average to dwell on the ad.

Implementation Details

Brand Awareness will be a new campaign-level objective in Facebook’s buying system, and selecting it for a buy will trigger the BAO buying method at the ad set level. As one might expect, all ads within the ad sets will then run with BAO optimization.

The reporting interface will see changes as well. Facebook will start presenting estimated ad recall as a reporting metric, derived from a statistical model describing the relationship between dwell time and ad recall. This change will enable advertisers to predict, with a reasonable degree of confidence, what the Brand Effect results of their campaign will be without needing to wait until the official study is delivered weeks after the campaign ends. Advertisers will benefit from this information in two ways:

  1. They can pull the plug early on campaigns with low projected recall
  2. They can increase their investment levels when they see a campaign with an above-benchmark recall projection.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The BAO product is a breakthrough in coupling Facebook buying methods to business media goals. While the ad recall projection is only an estimate, it is an important step in enabling advertisers to move their focus away from page post engagements, which have no significant correlation with brand metrics. As Facebook continues its research about performance drivers of brand metrics beyond ad recall, we expect that this offering will expand as warranted by future findings.

This product update also indicates a forward-thinking mindset at Facebook. While the digital display space remains riven by conflict about viewability standards and fraudulent impressions, Facebook has moved past that to optimising ad delivery for maximum dwell time against 100% in-view impressions.

BAO will be available to a limited group of advertisers in October, and will expand to the wider marketplace later in 2015. We encourage all advertisers using auction-based Facebook buys for brand marketing goals to test this buying method as soon as possible, and we will be working with our clients on re-evaluating their buying strategies.

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