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Facebook Ads removing 28-Day attribution model, defaulting to 7-day

Facebook Ads removing 28-Day attribution model, defaulting to 7-day Blog Feature

Joel Waggener

UX Designer, Paid Media Specialist, 15+ Years of Print and Web Design Expertise

October 15th, 2020 min read

Facebook has announced that it is phasing out the 28-day attribution window for Facebook ads and defaulting to a seven-day click. 

This is in support of digital privacy initiatives affecting multiple browsers, which limits the ability of businesses to measure people’s interactions across domains and devices. This is likely referring to Chrome’s intention to eliminate third-party cookies in the next two years.

Facebook states:

“While you may see fewer reported conversions with a 7-day window compared to a 28-day window, this is a more sustainable measurement strategy that will support digital privacy, be resilient to future browser changes and enable businesses to better measure the impact of their marketing investments on Facebook.”

Before we go on, let’s get something out of the way. For anyone not in the digital marketing world (especially paid media), this announcement may seem like the most innocuous news. But to those in the know, the idea of attribution is one that can send shivers down your spine and turn friends into foes.    

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s continue.

What does this attribution model change mean for Facebook advertisers?

Facebook's attribution models allow advertisers to measure specific results from their campaigns, based on rules set by the advertiser. In other words, how successful your campaigns are.

Attribution models use specified touchpoints in the Facebook ads process in order to provide specific insights on your chosen response metric. This enables marketers to glean detailed info on the impact your ads have had, based on that focused element.

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For example, e-commerce media buyers set up their tracking models within Facebook to closely monitor the buyer’s journey to see if there are any breakdowns from viewing, to adding to cart, to initiating checkout, adding payment and purchasing.

However, with this change, advertisers are directly affected by no longer being able to track direct actions based on their campaigns over a 28-day period. The longest attribution window will be the already-existing seven-day option, limiting tracking to a seven-day overview of direct response performance.

So, as Facebook said, “You may see fewer reported conversions with a seven-day window compared to a 28-day window.” 

The funny part of this is the “may” part. Media buyers, like the IMPACT paid team, will have everything affected, from reporting, to purchase conversion value and return on ad spend (ROAS). You know, just... everything.   

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How will this affect Facebook advertising?

This is the vast unknowingness that’s a little scary right now. How do you determine the success or failure of your ads when the window for reported conversions has gone from 28 days to seven days?

How much it impacts your reporting will depend upon the length of the customer journey, as well as your advertising methods. 

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High-value conversions and conversions that users need more time to complete their journey will likely be affected disproportionately compared to low value or impulse conversions. This will be particularly bad for companies where it takes longer for a customer to convert from initial click to purchase — think big ticket items in e-commerce and longer buyers' journeys for B2B.

Checking in with IMPACT Lead Facebook Ads Specialist Ali Parmelee, she said:

“In normal Facebook fashion, there are quite a lot of rumors that this change may not actually roll out to everyone. If it does, this would be some spectacularly bad timing with Q4 upon us.

I understand that the 28-day window is generous which is why we often develop our own version of truth for attribution with our clients. 

Luckily, this will not affect our actual ability for retargeting via the pixel, it will just alter the reporting in Facebook.”

So, what now?

The sunsetting of the 28-day attribution window ultimately does not affect ad delivery optimization and retargeting.

However it does affect reporting numbers for marketers who use a 28-day attribution window – so it will likely affect how advertisers perceive their ads’ effectiveness. This could change Facebook advertising budgets in the long run.

Be ready to pivot. Be vigilant. And most of all, be ready to have long conversations with your clients about attribution.

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