Digiday+ Research deep dive: Agencies and brands lose confidence in Facebook, even though they still spend there

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Agencies and brands alike continue to put marketing spend toward Facebook. But, according to a Digiday+ Research survey of 138 agency and brand professionals, the buy side’s confidence in Facebook as a marketing channel is trending downward — more so for brands than agencies.

Digiday’s survey found that Facebook is the top marketing channel among agencies. Ninety-three percent of agency pros said at least a little of their clients’ marketing budgets goes toward Facebook (which tied with its Meta sibling Instagram). However, Facebook is second to Google when it comes to spending big. Forty-seven percent of agency pros said their clients spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on Google, compared with 40% who said so of Facebook.

The story looks a bit different for brands. Eighty-five percent of brand pros said they spend at least a little of their marketing budgets on Facebook, putting it in third place for brands, after Google and online display ads and tied with Instagram. Facebook came in third place among brands who spend big on the channel as well. More than a quarter of brand respondents (27%) said they spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on Facebook, putting it behind Google and Instagram.

According to Digiday’s survey, the largest percentage of agency clients spend a moderate amount of their marketing budgets on Facebook. Nearly a third of agency pros (31%) said in Q1 of this year that their clients spend a moderate amount on the platform, a number that has remained consistent over the last year.

The percentage of agency pros who said their clients spend a large amount of their marketing budgets on Facebook has also been consistent over the last year. This group was the second-largest in Digiday’s survey, which found that 29% of agency pros said their clients spend a large amount on Facebook.

Interestingly, the percentage of agency pros who said their clients spend a very large portion of their marketing budgets on Facebook has fallen steadily over the last year. In Q1 2022, 18% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said their clients spent a very large portion of their budgets on Facebook, compared with 15% who said so in Q3 2022 and 11% who said so in Q1 of this year.

Meanwhile, the percentage of agency pros who said their clients spend a small portion of their marketing budgets on Facebook has risen slightly since Q1 of last year, when 11% said their clients spent a small amount on the platform. As of Q1 of this year, that percentage has risen to 16%.

On the brand side of things, respondents who told Digiday they spend a moderate amount of their marketing budgets on Facebook also made up the largest group — but it’s a different picture from agencies.

As of Q1 of this year, nearly half of brand pros (42%) said they spend a moderate amount on Facebook, which is a significantly larger percentage than any other group. In fact, the second-largest group of brand respondents said they spend a large portion of their budgets on Facebook, but only 18% said this. The percentage of brands who said they spend a moderate portion of their budgets on Facebook rose from 30% to 42% over the last year.

One thing to note is that Digiday’s survey found more brands aren’t spending any of their marketing budgets on Facebook. Fifteen percent of brand pros said they spend none of their budgets on the platform — which is still a low number — but it is a bit of a jump from the 7% who said they don’t spend at all on Facebook six months ago.

Another big change for brands happened over the last six months and occurred among those who spend a small portion of their marketing budgets on Facebook. The percentage of brand pros who said they spend a small portion of their budgets on Facebook fell from 21% in Q3 of last year to just 6% in Q1 of this year.

The percentage of brand pros who said they spend a very large portion of their marketing budgets on Facebook also ticked up slightly in the last six months, from 4% in Q3 2022 to 9% in Q1 2023.

So we know that the buy side is spending on Facebook, and we have a good idea of how much they’re spending. The big question remaining is, is it working? It seems as if the answer is, kind of.

Digiday’s survey found that agencies’ confidence in Facebook’s ability to drive marketing success for their clients is actually trending downward. Most agencies definitely do have some confidence in the platform (96%, to be exact). But the degree of confidence is losing steam a bit.

For instance, the percentage of marketing pros that told Digiday they’re confident or very confident that Facebook drives marketing success has fallen over the last year. In Q1 2022, 19% of agency pros said they were very confident in Facebook. That percentage fell to 13% as of Q1 2023. Meanwhile, 40% said they were confident in Facebook a year ago, compared to 31% today.

At the same time, those who said they’re only slightly confident that Facebook drives marketing success for their clients saw a big jump in the last six months. In Q3 of last year, 13% of agency pros told Digiday they were slightly confident in Facebook. Nearly a quarter (23%) said so in Q1 of this year.

Brands’ confidence in Facebook’s ability to drive marketing success has seen a lot more fluctuation compared with agencies.

In fact, it turns out that brand pros who told Digiday they’re only slightly confident in Facebook make up the largest percentage of respondents as of Q1 of this year, overtaking those who said they’re confident in the platform, which had been the previous leader since Q3 2021 when Digiday first started asking brand pros this question. Twenty-seven percent of brand pros said in Q1 2023 that they are slightly confident that Facebook drives marketing success, compared with 17% six months ago — marking a big jump.

At the same time, fewer than a quarter of brand pros (24%) said they’re confident that Facebook drives marketing success, which is a big drop from six months ago when nearly half (48%) said they were confident in the platform. And as of Q3 2022, that percentage had remained fairly steady since Q3 2021.

And the percentage of brand pros who told Digiday they’re not confident at all that Facebook drives marketing success rose to 12% this quarter from just 4% six months ago.

Meanwhile, the percentage of brand pros who said they’re very confident that Facebook drives marketing success has seen a significant rebound. This category still accounts for a small group of respondents (12% told Digiday in Q1 of this year that they’re very confident in Facebook), but the percentage of brand pros in this category had fallen to 3% and 4% for all of 2022 after coming in at 14% in Q3 2021.

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