Mixed Placement Across Platforms: Testing When and Where It Pays to Auto-Optimize

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Choosing where a social ad will appear is not as straightforward as it was just a few years ago. Platforms are becoming more robust, and there are more options than ever for where an ad can be placed. A question that often comes up is whether it’s best to select multiple placements for your ad campaign at the same time or optimize your ad campaign manually by splitting up separate placements. The first option, called mixed placement, relies on an algorithm to choose where your ads get delivered. Our data shows that advertisers are increasingly choosing mixed placement more often on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest – with good reason.

Mixed Placement Usage Grows on Facebook

Our data shows that mixed placement investments have increased year-over-year on Facebook since 2017, with close to two-thirds of spend going toward the auto-optimized mixed placements. This means that advertisers are running ads across placements like Messenger, Audience Network, the Facebook and Instagram news feeds, and Stories at the same time within one ad set, allowing Facebook’s algorithms to serve the ad on the placement it deems most impactful.

We looked at Facebook CPMs from 2017 to 2019 and found that CPMs were 10% more efficient on campaigns running with mixed placements vs. single placements. In 2017, when mixed placement accounted for only 35% of advertiser campaigns, they delivered much more efficient CPMs (22% lower than single placement). Now that almost 70% of campaigns are run as mixed placement, CPMs have stabilized and are only 12% lower for mixed placement compared to single placement. Although the CPM gap has decreased, it is still significantly more cost-effective to run mixed placement campaigns.

The Shifting Placement Landscape on Twitter

Mixed placement adoption has grown rapidly on Twitter, now accounting for 90% of all placements (up from 64% in 2017). As the volume of mixed placement campaigns has grown, so too have CPM costs. Single placement CPMs, on the other hand, are declining as fewer advertisers are selecting single-placement campaigns.

Over the past three years, single placements CPMs averaged 10% higher than mixed placement. That balance is rapidly shifting, however, and in the first half of 2019, mixed placement CPMs were 36% higher than single. This is driven primarily by higher CPMs for mixed placement in the awareness and consideration objectives. Mixed placement for conversion objectives is still much more cost-effective than single placement for conversion, which shows 63% higher CPMs in 2019.

Although mixed placement campaigns are not necessarily accessible at a lower cost on Twitter, they are still used by the majority of advertisers because they deliver stronger reach and help make ads more relevant – by making sure they’re optimized to be in the right place at the right time for the consumer.

Mixed Placement Dominates on Pinterest

Pinterest saw the strongest mixed placement growth of any platform from 2017 to 2019, accounting for 94% of total placements in the first half of 2019 – a 40-point increase from 2017. Mixed also has significantly more cost-effective CPMs than single placement on Pinterest, saving 33% on average.

Mixed placement on Pinterest is particularly simple – it includes the Pinterest feed and Pinterest search. There’s little reason to use single placement, as mixed placement allows you to reach users who are in a discovery mindset (feed) and those who are looking for something specific (search). The two placements serve different purposes, and by using mixed placement, you’re able to reach customers at all stages of their Pinterest consumer journey – at a lower cost than for single placements alone.

Best Practices for Mixed Placement

Mixed placement performance varies by platform, objective, and year, but looking at the digital landscape as a whole, CPM costs are similar regardless of mixed placement or single placement usage. Without a drastic difference in cost, it’s worth leveraging mixed placement to increase your potential touchpoints and reach more users at the right time and place with algorithm-based optimization. Mixed placement also takes predictive costs into consideration, meaning the platform can predict which variations of your campaign will perform the best as it scales.

While it is best practice to auto-optimize with mixed placements, simply selecting every possible placement option for every campaign will not deliver the best performance. Instead, look at the campaign KPI, the available creative, and your overall business goals to assess which placements make the most sense. If you have a vertical video ad with a goal of generating brand awareness, for example, you should run a combination of Stories placements, which are impactful in delivering high reach and awareness and are specifically designed for your vertical creative. In this example, you would also want to remove desktop placements, since vertical video is best for mobile, unless you were using Segment Asset Customization (which allows you to automatically optimize creative across ad placements and formats on Facebook).

There are a number of variables that can help determine which placements you should select, but the data speaks for itself: When possible, it’s ideal to use mixed placement and auto-optimization for the most relevant reach at an efficient cost.