Starting in February 2021, there will be an official limit on the number of ads Facebook Pages are able to run at any given time.

Whoa now. When did this become a thing? The announcement from Facebook was published yesterday, and we found out yesterday evening via Search Engine Journal. Facebook claims in their post that they announced this in October of last year, though they did it on the Developers blog where it barely counts to us (something something tree falling in forest).

Not sure I like limits, especially when I didn’t have them before. Well, in everything Facebook is saying here, this is for the benefit of advertisers and their ecosystem—and honestly, we believe Facebook so far. Facebook’s ad market doesn’t succeed long-term unless the advertisers do, and central controls like this can help balance the whole market in ways none of the players could themselves (like the Federal Reserve steering interest rates).

OK. So what are the limits? As you might expect, it’s a tiered system which takes into account the entire spectrum of business sizes using it. There are four different tiers, whose limits are premised upon different ad-spend amounts—more specifically, the amount the Page spent on ads in its highest-spending month out of the past 12 months.

A lot of us here will fall into the bottom tier (spent less than 100K in the highest-spending month out of the past 12), where each Page is limited to 250 ads running at any given time. If your Page spent more than 100K in its biggest recent month, you’ll be limited to 1000 ads running at a time. And upwards from there.

Are these limits gonna cause problems for us? We doubt it, especially when you read how the limits will likely help across the board. There is, however, a good chance that you’ll be forced to stop and deliberately re-calibrate your running assumptions about best practices for managing Facebook ads.

How might these limits help us? Quick and dirty version: they keep advertisers from hamstringing themselves in ways they couldn’t anticipate.

Over the past few years, ad delivery and audience focus have gotten more targeted, more niche, more specialized; this means, generally, that advertisers have been splintering the same advertising resources into a greater and greater number of campaigns. On the surface, this might look like diversification, which is good common sense for investors, but it’s NOT necessarily a good idea to apply the same logic on the Facebook ad platform. (True, market forces are a major factor in Facebook’s ad ecosystem, but so are Facebook’s internal programmatic workings—and that’s one critical difference between Facebook’s ad ecosystem and the stock market.)

The natural challenge here is that Facebook’s machine-learning and optimization systems cannot get an ad campaign fully off the ground unless they have some “runway” to gather data and pick up speed. If Facebook is a pilot and you provide a proper runway, they’ll do their best with any kind of plane you wanna fly—but by the same logic, no amount of Top Gun talent can get any conventional plane off the ground with only 100 yards* of runway. That’s what you’re doing if you run too many campaigns: you’re trying to build tiny runways directly outwards from every gate rather than forming a line and taking turns for a proper takeoff.

One last detail, then there’s more in the links above (if you like). Budget is certainly a major factor in this problem; a lot of businesses can’t just reach into their pockets for a substantial budget increase, which means multiplying your ad count will gradually dilute per-campaign ad budget down to pocket change (and that’s not good). Having said that, it’s not a one-variable problem; even if money is no object, you’re also burning through people faster and more chaotically, which will wear down your advertising tires in a hurry.

* One of life’s funny coincidences: right when we wrote this, we wondered how long’s the runway on an aircraft carrier? According to Google’s snippet: about 300 feet, which is 100 yards. Still, it seems fair to say that F-15s and aircraft-carrier fare aren’t conventional planes, so the point stands.

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