Meta's Poison Pill Will Block Your Ability to Run Ads

Plus: Threads is about to reinvent the hashtag — how will that affect your brand’s campaigns?

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In Today’s Issue:

 📉 TikTok sees a slight decline in weekly teen usage, but remains ahead of YouTube

🛍️ Google Shopping introduces AI to generate images of products from user descriptions

🤔 More advertisers flee after Elon Musk's endorsement of an antisemitic post

🏷️ Threads tests topic tags in posts, allowing users to link updates to broader subjects

🚫 Meta's ad-free subscription limits users' ability to run or boost ads on its platforms

📸 Instagram adds 25 new filters for the first time in forever

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A CONFUSING PARTNERSHIP
The Unlikely Ad Marriage of Amazon+Meta, Explained

Andrew Foxwell is our Meta ads correspondent. He joins us every Friday, exclusively in the Premium Newsletter and Premium Podcast.

This week, Andrew and I discussed:

  • Details on the Amazon ads in Meta’s ad platform.

  • What brands and advertisers can expect

  • Revised conversion metrics — everything you need to know

Be sure to check out Andrew’s Foxwell Founders community of digital ad buyers and his extensive training in the digital ad space.

🔐 This column is a Premium Exclusive. Upgrade today!

THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT
TikTok's Popularity Among Teens Levels Off

  • TikTok's weekly usage by teens drops slightly to 68%.

  • Competitors like Reels and Shorts are gaining traction.

TikTok's grip on the teen market is showing signs of leveling off. The latest data from Forrester's 2023 Youth Survey reveals a slight decline in weekly TikTok usage among teens, dropping from 69% in 2022 to 68% in 2023.

Sure, that’s not much, but it’s the first real sign of saturation we’ve seen on the platform.

  • TikTok remains just ahead of its main competitor, YouTube, which saw its teen usage fall to 66%.

  • Platforms like Instagram's Reels and YouTube's Shorts are gaining ground. Reels' weekly usage among teens has risen to 30%, while Shorts has reached 15%.

TikTok’s videos get an average of 1.5 hours of daily viewing from its users.

The platform is expected to capture a significant portion of linear TV budgets targeted at Gen Z in 2024.

Despite its current lead, TikTok faces growing competition in the ad market from Reels and Shorts, both of which are integrating more seamlessly into their parent apps, Instagram and YouTube.

By the way, we are on TikTok — our account name is @TodayInDigital, or you can follow me for cat memes and shitposting at @TodMaffin.

OH LAWD THE BOTS ARE COMING
Google’s New “Dream a Product, Find a Product” Search

  • Google's AI tool generates images based on search terms.

  • AI suggests products matching these generated images.

  • New feature includes virtual try-on and gift suggestions.

If you can dream it, Google wants to find it for you.

The company this week unveiling a new feature, part of Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE), lets users create a product image using AI and then search for real-world equivalents.

For instance, if you're looking for a winter coat, Google's AI will create an image based on your description. You can modify this image with additional prompts like "more colorful" or "shiny metallic fabric." The system then tries to find the closest real-world match.

It’s all part of a mad rush to add AI into, well, everything.

Other use of AI in shopping tools includes gift suggestions based on search terms and a virtual try-on feature, which has now expanded to include men's tops.

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POISON PILL
Buying Meta’s “Ad Free” Subscription Plan Will Remove Your Ability to Run Ad Campaigns

We’ve reported on Meta’s new paid subscription plan in the EU which will remove ads from subscribers feeds — but here’s something that wasn’t made particularly clear: It will also remove your ability to run ad campaigns or even boost posts.

Specifically, here are the limitations, direct from Meta’s fine print on the plan:

“If you subscribe, the following are no longer available to you because it would require using your information for ads:

  • Running ads and boosting posts for an Instagram account

  • Running ads and boosting posts for your Facebook profile (for example, boosting your own Marketplace listings)

  • Running ads for a Facebook Page, if the Page is linked to an Instagram account that has a subscription to use Meta Products without ads

  • Participating in partnership ads on Instagram or Facebook

  • Monetizing with Ads on Reels and In-stream ads”

Honestly, this seems more punative than anything. To say that they’re just not able to let you run ads because you’re not seeing them on your feed would really only be possible in a world where, you know, software engineers who could fix that don’t exist. Which they do. And can.

There does seem to be a loophole though:

You’ll be able to run ads for a linked Facebook Page that you manage, as long as you don’t also have an Instagram account that’s signed up for the ad-free option connected to both…

So you can avoid personalized ads entirely, and pay for your Facebook and IG experience. But if you also want to run ads, you’ll probably need to cancel your subscription.

Which is probably how Meta wants it, as it can likely make more money over time by showing people ads, as opposed to what it’ll rake in from subscription payments.  

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DOES ELON EVEN WANT ADVERTISERS?
Advertisers Bail After Elon Musk Endorses Antisemitic Post

  • Elon Musk endorsed an antisemitic post, sparking advertiser concerns.

  • Major companies' ads appeared next to pro-Nazi content on Musk's platform.

  • IBM suspends advertising on Musk's platform, citing zero tolerance for hate.

Elon Musk, owner of “X”, the platform formerly known as relevant, is back at it again.

Earlier this week, he endorsed a post that somehow managed to be both antisemetic and racist.

And, as you can imagine, advertisers aren’t happy. Again.

Even More Advertisers Bail

X employees are said to be receiving calls from media buyers demanding details about how close their ads are appearing next to pro-Nazi and pro-white nationalist content. Despite the platform’s claims of brand safety, researchers say those running ad campaigns have found their brand sitting right beside hate content, graphically violent videos, and the likes.

IBM, which until this week was one of the few still hanging in, has now suspended advertising on the platform after the non-profit group Media Matters found IBM ads appearing right next to pro-Nazi content. IBM says it has withdrawn from a deal to spend $1 million on advertising on the platform by the end of 2023.

X Marks the Hate Speech

The platform’s CEO responded by claimed the company has a commitment to combating antisemitism and discrimination.

How’s that going?

The Center for Countering Digital Hate audited the platform this week and reported 200 posts that went against X’s own terms.

Some of those posts included statements that “Hitler saw Jews for what they were,” that Muslims are “smelly rats,” and referred to Palestinians in Gaza as “animals.”

Of those 200 reported, 196 were left up.

One Mastodon user last week posted the Cybertruck logo — that’s the truck made by Elon Musk’s Tesla company — and showed that the shape of the last three letters in the logo spell out KKK.

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POUR ONE OUT FOR THE SPAMMY HASHTAGS
Threads Introduces “Topic Tagging”

  • Threads' new feature allows linking updates to related posts.

  • The feature differs from hashtags, requiring manual tagging.

  • Aims to reduce spam and misuse, enhancing user experience.

Threads will soon introduce hashtags — without actual hashtags.

Meta, which owns the Twitter replacement, is calling them “topic tags.”

They differ from traditional hashtags, as they require users to manually tag each post with a relevant and pre-screened topic. And unlike hashtags, which can be added in bulk, Threads' topic tags limit users to adding only one tag per post.

This is designed to reduce spam and misuse by scammers, who often exploit trending hashtags.

From a marketers’ point of view, this probably means that branded hashtags won’t be a thing any more, as they likely wouldn’t make it into the pre-selected list of topics. Or maybe they will, but only if you buy them as an ad campaign.

Even if you do get a branded topic tag, that means you’ll only be able to use that one tag, and not other discovery-focused tags like we’ve been used to doing.

Either way, it does make posts look much more clean. Hopefully an API is next up on the feature list.

THEY SAY THEY WANT AN EVOLUTION
Instagram Adds 25 New Photo Filters

  • Instagram introduces first new filters in a long time, totaling 25.

  • New features include significant image alterations, not just color changes.

  • Updates aim to keep users within Instagram, competing with other apps.

When Instagram first launched — well before Zuckerberg paid a billion dollars for it — the app shipped with filters, with names like Clarendon, Sierra, Lo-fi, and Nashville.

Those filters mostly all stuck around, but they also haven’t been joined by any filter siblings.

That’s changing now, as the app has added 25 new filters, offering a range from subtle color edits to more expressive styles. These filters, such as "wide angle" and "wavy," go beyond traditional color and tone adjustments, allowing significant changes to original images.

Also new: the ability to scale, crop, and rotate individual clips in Reels, and new text-to-speech voices.

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