Meta tests generative AI ads - a USP for brands?

The social media giant is currently testing the AI-powered ad tool technology in its ‘AI Sandbox', granting access to a select group of advertisers with expansion plans for later this year.

Meta has joined the generative AI fray, announcing at a media event last week that it has begun testing AI-powered ad tools that enable text and image editing from within its advertising toolkit.

The social media giant has spent the past few months working with an unspecified number of advertisers to trial the technology in an attempt to automate elements of campaign creation.

Specifically, the tools being incorporated into what Meta is calling the ‘AI Sandbox’, are a copy generator capable of creating multiple captions from one product description, an “outcropping” editor that automatically fills gaps in a resized creative asset and an image background generator.

Coined the “testing playground”, selected advertisers have been invited to experiment with the tools using the AI Sandbox.

According to a Bloomberg report, Meta also introduced a new AI-based model that can help businesses predict the performance of ads using a bigger data set than previously.

Meta responds to Google

The announcement marks the Facebook and Instagram owner’s first investment in generative AI technology for ads and a Meta executive said they plan to grant more advertisers access to the toolkit in July and officially launch some of the ad products for general use later this year.

Investment in generative AI has gone into overdrive following an outpouring of interest from businesses and the general public upon the Microsoft-backed release of OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, earlier this year.

Meta’s announcement closely followed the news that Google will start offering the technology within its own products. It’s currently unclear how investment in generative AI will impact Meta’s expansion of its metaverse plans, if at all.

“Unique” opportunity for marketers

John Hegeman, VP of monetization at Meta, said at the event: “Clearly, the overall generative AI space is developing incredibly quickly right now.

“We recognize that there are a number of tools that businesses are already using out there and will continue to use over time as well.”

However, Meta believes its integration of the tech will offer a USP competitors will struggle to match, allowing advertisers to test AI-powered tools extemporaneously.

“This will allow advertisers to do a number of powerful things such as test tens of different types of backgrounds or text variations, which could allow them to further personalise their messages for different parts of their audience,” he said.

Don't confuse automation with optimisation

Tom Ollerton, Founder of advertising agency Automated Creative, cautioned brands against confusing automation with optimisation: "Automation is doing things automatically based on pre-defined inputs. Press a button and ‘poof’ - it happens. Optimisation on the other hand, means doing the optimal thing. Yes, this may include automation but in our experience the optimal thing usually involves a clever, creative and experienced person.

"Meta’s new tech will have eye-watering funding behind it, of course, but it might struggle to fund thousands of clever, creative and experienced people to make optimal ads with it.

"Complicated machinery or technology still needs trained professionals. Our clients demand great design from us which is part human, part machine. This is optimal. That said, it will be a fantastic tool for smaller businesses that are low on time and resources, not too unlike Meta’s existing automated ad products."