In February, Meta announced the release of LLaMA, its answer to ChatGPT. Is this the first time you’re hearing about it? If so, you would not be alone. Though LLaMA has drawn praise for its efficiency, it’s unlikely that many of your friends have tried it, because it’s only readily available to A.I. researchers. There’s no easy-to-use chatbot to play with just yet, though that’s supposedly in development along with all kinds of other tools, which Mark Zuckerberg is eerily referring to as “A.I. personas.”
And so when Meta announced that it would be unveiling some new A.I. tools this week and demonstrating the new ways that the technology will begin helping its advertisers, anticipation was high. The company needs a win. Over the past year the metaverse, over which the social-media giant formerly known as Facebook reoriented itself, has become a joke, and the company has laid off more than 15,000 people. Whatsapp has also had a rough week, as Mark Zuckerberg’s new social media rival Elon Musk took potshots at its security as he begins to roll out his own encrypted product.
But what we got from the presentation was … this:
A series of backdrops. Evidently one of the new generative-A.I. tools, which will become available to more marketers this summer, can suggest colors and patterns that might help your product pop.
Not feeling particularly blown away?
The tool can also suggest ad text and provide promotional images in multiple sizes.
Still bored? Fair enough. In a world where generative A.I. creates horrifyingly amazing beer ads and it’s possible to create celebrity-filled commercials starring your product without requiring your product or the celebrity on set, it’s undeniably hard to wow a crowd.
Perhaps the most significant A.I.-connected change that Meta is now rolling out is even less fun. But it actually might prove to be quite significant, reviving the privacy-challenged art of targeted ads and thereby fortifying Meta’s floundering business model
Ever wonder how Instagram and Facebook decided to promote that particular shower curtain or questionable ADHD supplement to you? The answer is complicated and has gotten Meta into all kinds of trouble lately. In 2021, when Apple made a significant update to its privacy features in iOS, Facebook lost the ability to obtain tracking data on legions of customers, costing the company around $10 billion. More recently, the European Union fined Meta around $414 million for its approach to targeted advertising. Both developments have spurred quotes like this one in Forbes: “Micro-targeted advertising has had its day.”
Well, maybe not. Meta, it seems, is determined to try to supplement some of the actual data about us that it’s no longer able to use with A.I.-generated predictions. As Nicola Mendelsohn, the head of the Meta’s Global Business Group, explained in the presentation, “we’re doing more with less data.”
Meta has long been using A.I. to figure out how to rank and show Instagram and Facebook users the most “relevant” ads, John Hegeman, vice president of monetization at Meta, said in Thursday’s presentation. But for the most part Meta relied on companies’ own assumptions about who wants their products: for example, mothers in cities who are interested in baby-led weaning.
These core assumptions are not always correct or complete, explained Cody Plofker, the chief marketing officer of Jones Road Beauty, which got early access to Meta’s new A.I. tools. Maybe, for example, your real customer base is male farmers who appreciate arugula. Last year, he said, Jones Road Beauty tripled its revenue, something Plofker and Meta execs credited partly to the new tools.
“We’ve found the best success with really allowing Meta to do the targeting,” said Plofker, whose mother, Bobbi Brown, founded the direct-to-consumer makeup company. The targeting is so specific that it might send an ad focused on a product’s moisture levels to an entirely different group than an ad focused on dry skin, he said.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all this A.I. stuff enabled Meta to serve us less total ads, turning Instagram from a shitty virtual mall full of flashing neon signs to one of those hotels discretely advertising sheets so soft you want to buy them? Alas, this does not seem likely in the immediate future. Along with the A.I.-connected tweaks, Meta will now allow marketers to place video ads in far more places than ever before.