Every Meta Advertiser Should Know What This Is (Spoiler: They Don’t)

Bexley Terrell Written on January 19th, 2023, Last updated on October 10th, 2023

The breakdown effect is a phenomenon that I see very few people talking about. I’ve met some pretty senior media buyers that have never even heard of it.

If you are involved in optimising Meta Ads, participating in the creative testing process, or reviewing results as a stakeholder, you must understand the breakdown effect because it impacts every decision related to testing new creative and audiences.

If you read my previous blog post about how the Meta Ads auction works, you’ll know how important it is to fight with the Meta algorithm, not against it. They are an intermediary service between publishers, advertisers and users. They aim to appease all parties and give them the best experience possible. 

Despite what some jaded media buyers will tell you, Meta wants their advertisers to get the lowest cost result with the highest possible volume.

So What is the Breakdown Effect?

Have you seen Facebook favor delivering budget to an ad set or ad seemingly performing worse than its counterparts? That is the breakdown effect in action. It’s not an accident, it’s not the delivery system screwing up, and it’s definitely not Meta wasting your budget.

Meta is delivering a higher budget to the more scalable ad sets or ads. The ratio in which it allocates your budgets between assets is the ratio that gives you the best-blended result for the budget you have indicated you are willing to spend.

The fact is Meta is already favoring the best-performing ad. Every ad has a ceiling for the amount you can spend on it before achieving a higher cost per result. If you force spend through an asset that Facebook deems to be performing worse, your overall cost per result will be higher.

How do you Optimise With This in Mind?

How your spend is delivered on Facebook is a meritocracy; spending is allocated to different ad sets and ads according to previous and future expected results. 

If you are not hitting your desired targets, there are two options. Lower your budget or improve the creative (effectively reducing your CPM and improving your CVR.) CRO is a completely different kettle of fish that we’ll steer clear of in this, but it definitely shouldn’t be ignored. 

  • The first thing to remember is do not turn off your highest-spending ad because it’s delivering a worse result than other ads with considerably less spend. This will have the opposite effect and likely lower your ROAS.
  • If you can’t afford to deliver results at that cost, then it’s time to turn down your budget. Do so in small increments so as not to reset the learnings you have already accrued if you can help it. 
  • Ask yourself, what can I learn about how Facebook is currently delivering spend, and where are we seeing good results? Now iterate your creative tests around that. Spend a third of your time and resource on this.
  • Now, think about new creative angles and concepts to test. Spend two-thirds of your time here. Remember, not every test is supposed to be successful. In fact, most aren’t. These incremental learnings and improvements will lead to better results over time.

You’re testing to improve the overall result. When more budget gets shifted to a newer asset, you know you’ve found at least an on-par result. Monitor how it continues to deliver, and you may find that it performs better. Over time Meta will push more budget to better-performing assets, and you can phase out ones that deliver a poorer result.

The Shameless Plug

As an agency, we deal with these sorts of challenges and questions every day. If you would like to chat with the team about how we can help you with creative testing and managing your Meta Ads, then please feel free to reach out.

Bexley Terrell Hey, Bexley here 👋 When I’m not running up that hill, scaling paid media campaigns, I’m often found watching live music or binge-watching How I Met Your Mother for the five hundredth time.

Ready to supercharge your paid media?