First Details On Facebook’s “View Tags” Cookie Ad Tracking That Shows Sales From Impressions

Facebook is on a quest to quantify the value of its ads, and TechCrunch has attained the first public details on its recently expanded ad tracking program called “View Tags” that looks beyond clicks. It lets advertisers drop cookies on people who see their Facebook ads and track if they buy something later. I’ve also got the first View Tags results showing up to 87% of conversions can come from views.

View Tags could help Facebook keep Google from claiming responsibility for driving sales triggered by the social network’s ads. They serve as an alternative to the openly available conversion tracking tool Facebook announced and Reuters covered last week. That system relies on an advertiser’s site detecting the  User ID of someone who converts. Facebook cross-checks the ID against lists of who saw what ads to establish attribution instead of using traditional cookies.

Both help advertisers see whether or not their Facebook ads earn them more money than they cost, which is critical to Facebook luring more advertisers on board.

How “View Tags” Works

Facebook quietly began the View Tags program a year ago with a select group of partners that could only drop cookies only premium ads managed directly through Facebook’s sales team. During recent talks with Facebook adtech startups, I heard that over the summer Facebook began allowing partners in its Preferred Developer Consultant club members to run View Tags campaigns for advertisers.

I asked Facebook for details, and now I’ve got the full low-down. The social network confirms with me that the View Tag program beta began conservatively, presumably to monitor for privacy issues and performance. Since then, Facebook has begun allowing all of its ads to drop View Tags cookies that link a user to a specific ad they saw. Facebook has also been slowly loosening up what ad platforms can employ View Tags. To gain admission, adtech partners must undergo a grueling privacy audit to ensure their stack doesn’t suck in any personally identifiable information about the user.

Advertisers can generate cookies and work with approved partners to make their View Tags ads drop them. The cookies remain on a user’s browser until they’re cleared or naturally expire after a few months, though they can last upwards of years. Initially, they help advertisers tell what anonymous demographics of users have seen their ads, and how many times. Then if a viewer makes a purchase, signs up for a service, or takes some other conversion action on the advertiser’s site later on, a pixel installed on the site recognizes the cookie and informs Facebook which user converted.  Advertisers can then check their Facebook ad analytics to see which ad led to the conversion.

Why Facebook And Advertisers Need View Tags

View Tags are a big deal because right now, Facebook’s isn’t getting credit for a lot of the business and sales its ads drive. Many have likened Facebook to a party where no one wants to suddenly stop talking with friends to go shopping. When someone sees an ad, they’re not always in the mood to click through and immediately purchase, but that doesn’t mean the ad wasn’t effective.  With View Tags, an advertiser could tell if a certain campaign wasn’t driving a ton of clicks, but generated a huge return on investment down the line.

Since impressions often cost orders of magnitude less than clicks, advertisers could drastically boost ROI by homing in on ads that work just by being seen. Businesses can even watch their View Tags to see what ads work best and shift their ad budgets to show more of them. Better ad-to-conversion attribution helps advertisers get the most bang for their buck, and keeps them coming back to Facebook and spending more.

Do They Work?

Yes, at least according to some of the first adtech partners getting to use them. SocialCode ran an ad campaign for a consumer packaged good company looking to get people to redeem an offer. Thanks to View Tags, it found that of the total 5,924 people who redeemed the offer, 5,127 had only viewed the advertisement, compared to 797 users who clicked through to the offer directly from the ad.

While this is just one campaign, it showed that 87% of conversions came from impressions, not clicks. SocialCode’s CEO Laura O’Shaughnessy tells me that without View Tags, “we were missing the largest segment of those acting” on the offer.

Another campaign from social ads giant Kenshoo saw View Tags reveal that 34.6% of conversions were coming from impressions where users didn’t click. Impression-only conversions generated over $31,00, or 29% of the campaign’s total revenue. Kenshoo’s senior director of product marketing Todd Herrold tells me that “Marketers are beginning to understand how Facebook ads generate brand and product awareness and influence purchase decisions, and many are increasing Facebook ad budgets as a result.”

Previously, if someone saw and remembered an ad on Facebook, then later Googled the brand’s name and clicked through to make a purchase, Google would have been credited with driving the sale instead of Facebook. View Tags could help Facebook prove that just because it’s not always the last click before the conversion doesn’t mean it’s not the inspiration.

[Featured image credit: Lorelyn Medina / Shutterstock]