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Facebook has a 100-person engineering team that helps advertisers build tools and infrastructure

Facebook has a 100-person engineering team that helps advertisers build tools and infrastructure
From TechCrunch - December 29, 2017

Stories about Facebooks advertising business tend to focus on the big numbersits billions of users, millions of advertisers or its enormous lead over any competitor thats not named Google.

But Facebook says that one of its success stories in recent years involves a relatively small group of engineersin fact, originally it was just one engineer, Vastal Mehta, who serves as Facebooks director of solutions engineering and now leads a team of more than 100 people. That team works with advertisers to build the technology and infrastructure needed to run more effective campaigns on Facebook, often on top of Facebooks APIs.

Mehta said that when he first started working on this in 2010, it was a very different landscape, both for mobile (where BlackBerry was still a major player) and for Facebook (which hadnt even introduced advertising into the News Feed). This was right as the company was trying to shift in a big way toward mobile, and advertisers were still trying to wrap their heads around the change: For example, travel companies didnt have teams set up to reach consumers with mobile advertising.We knew that we needed to invest in helping businesses build infrastructure to power their mobile advertising, so I started a team that could help businesses in this sort of bespoke way, Mehta added.

Youd expect any digital media business to offer some degree of technical support to its biggest advertisers, but the solutions engineering team is actually building products.

For example, it was involved in creating Facebooks dynamic ads format (where ads show different products to different users based on their activities and interests). Mehta said dynamic ads were first inspired by the complaints of an advertiser he was meeting with in Hamburg, Germany, and he then worked with the Facebook Ads team to create a prototype, eventually leading to a more polished product and broader availability.

Its probably safe to say that not every client meeting leads to a new ad formatsometimes Mehtas team is just helping advertisers understand how to use their existing tools in a more effective way. But that other option, working with the rest of Facebook to build something new, is also on the table.

To give me a better sense of what the team actually does, Facebook connected me with Anthony Marino, chief marketing officer at online thrift store thredUP. Marino said that when his company started talking with Facebooks solution engineering team in 2016, there was a big challenge: How to use ads to highlight thredUPs constantly changing inventory.

On thredUP, the site is practically remade every hour as thousands and thousands of new items are added, he said. We looked at that flow of product, of apparel, and it was like being a news siteWe had to figure out a way to automate the process of, okay, once we capture and the attributes and qualities of different items of clothing, how do we get them in front of the right person?

To enable that, Facebook worked with thredUP to launch dynamic ads that were connected to thredUPs real-time product catalog. The system uses machine learning to further improve the targeting; for example, showing users different types of ads at different times of day.

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