You’re setting up your Facebook and Instagram ads. You’ve considered and selected your Facebook advertising objective from the eleven they offer - congratulations!

You’re nearly there. Almost. Perhaps. Not quite?

Not only do you now have your targeting options to contend with, you also have to consider your ad placements.

We'll talk you through each placement type, the platforms they live on and when you might use them in your campaign.

What are Facebook advertising placements?

Yes, the clue is in the name. Placements are quite literally where your ads will be placed online.

This isn't just on which platforms they will be visible i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network or Messenger, but where they will appear on the page i.e. within a user's news feed, in the right hand column, etc.

What control do I have over where my ads appear using placements?


When creating a new ad, Facebook gives you the option to either select:

  • Automatic placements (recommended)
  • Edit placements

Automatic Placements

Facebook of course recommends Automatic Placements, which is where they will show your ads ‘to your audience in the places they’re likely to perform best’.

With this option, you have no control over which platform (Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, Messenger) your ads are being shown to.

The argument they give for using this option is that overall they will get you the lowest overall cost per optimisation event.

If you’d really rather focus on a particular platform or placement however, you might find that the automatic placements option ends up delivering higher costs per optimisation event than it would if you focused on this platform alone.

This is because, taking into account your overall cost per optimisation event, platforms and placements with lower costs will take priority, potentially pushing up the cost of the placements you’d actually prefer.

Bear that in mind and keep an eye on your costs per placement when using this option.

It might well be that the placement you thought was the most important isn’t - so don't forget to consider the actual results when looking at placement costs too!

Edit Placements

With this option you're able to remove entire platforms or individual placements from your advertising campaign, e.g. to advertise only on Instagram, or stop your ad from being shown as an instant article.

You can even run ads that only target desktop devices or just mobiles - going so far as to stop ads from running on mobile devices with specific operating systems (Android or iOS).

The edit placements option isn't just about picking and choosing which placements you want - in fact you might not want to alter these at all, but instead ensure your ads don't turn up on or next to specific content, publishers or categories.

You can do this in two ways:

Create and apply a block list for your ads

This is where you create and upload a .csv file of Facebook Pages (for instant articles and in-stream videos) or websites (for the audience network) on which you don't want your ads to appear.

Now this is likely to be an extremely time-consuming task and unlikely to be of interest to the majority of advertisers.

So why has Facebook included this option?

Brand safety. Brands can review the sites their ads might appear on and remove any that might be inappropriate (e.g. mature content or news pages where sensitive material might appear).

Before creating a block list, the best thing to do is to download the most up to date Publisher List from Facebook.

You can access this by heading to either Ads Manager or Business Manager > Click the hamburger icon > Select ‘Block Lists’ under ‘Assets’ > Publisher List

Facebook Block List Location in Business Manager

This will give you a list of places where your ads ‘could appear’ across the Audience Network or Facebook, so you can then identify and upload any of these into your block list for your campaign.

Now unless your organisation requires such strict brand protection, you might just want to use the simpler way of preventing your ads from displaying on inappropriate pages or sites, which brings us to to the second option:

Excluding categories

Using this option, you can tell Facebook to prevent -  they can’t guarantee completely - your ads from appearing on pages or sites relating to the following content:

  • Debatable social issues (religion, immigration, politics etc.)
  • Mature content (violence, sexual, strong language etc.)
  • Dating websites or apps
  • Gambling websites or apps

Can I mix and match all the Facebook placements I want?

Short answer? No.

Certain placements are only available under specific objectives - for example the Sponsored Messages placement is of course only available for campaigns with the Messages objective.

It also depends on your creative, such as a video or product catalogue.

When you select ‘edit placements’ you will be presented with a list of all the placements Facebook offers.

Only those with a checkbox presented alongside are available under your chosen objective.

These are the ones you can then pick and choose from, though some are reliant on others being checked - for example you can only select the Messenger ‘Inbox’ placement if the Facebook ‘Feeds’ placement is also selected.

So what placement options do I have for my Facebook and Instagram ads and which objectives can I use them with?

There are fourteen placements available when creating an ad in Facebook, across Facebook's four advertising platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Audience Network
  • Messenger

What are my ad placement options on Facebook?

Facebook is unsurprisingly the platform with the highest number and variety of placements available.

Let's take a look:

- Feeds Placement

Your ad will appear directly in your audience’s desktop or mobile newsfeed, i.e. where content from their friends and family also appears.

Example ad using the Facebook Feed Placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook Feeds placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook Feeds placements

When should I use the Facebook Feeds placement?

As the above table shows, the Facebook Feeds Placement is safe to use with any marketing objective, ad type or desired device delivery.

This aside, you're running Facebook ads, right? So you're already planning to hit the momentous crowd of Facebook users in the one online space they might spend most of their time.....Facebook.

So what are they likely to be doing in Facebook?

Aside from stalking their exes or posting selfies, they'll be - you guessed it! - scrolling through their feed!

It's this placement that made Facebook advertising what it is today - delivering ads in a way that doesn't interrupt and fits seamlessly into a user's experience.

When should I avoid the Facebook Feeds placement?

We'd say you can't really go wrong with this placement, though there have been arguments that ads delivered in the feeds placement are so well blended that users nowadays just scroll right past - so if you're running a brand awareness or reach campaign it's worth throwing in as many placements as possible.

The only occasions when the Facebook Feeds placement might not matter to you as much would be:

  1. If you're running a sponsored messages campaign, obviously.
  2. If you've tested various placements and find that Facebook feeds doesn't deliver the results you want.
  3. If you only intend to run your ads on Instagram
  4. If you're running a campaign where you've designed the ad for a very specific placement (e.g. stories)

Otherwise, Facebook Feeds is the one that's always worth keeping ticked.

- Instant Articles Placement

Your ad will appear as an instant article in the Facebook mobile app or on Messenger.

Example ad using the Facebook instant article placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook Instant Articles placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook Instant Articles placements

When should I use the Facebook Instant Articles placement?

This one doesn't really take Sherlock Holmes to figure out. It's obviously great if you're a publisher with regular content to push out.

Instant articles load faster than traditional page links so it's arguably a better way of promoting your articles on Facebook, whether you want to deliver content to a wider audience or simply capitalise on the stories that are generating the most traffic.

You also have the added choice of advertising within your articles to earn revenue. If Facebook places them, you take home 30%, if you place them yourself (albeit you're limited with how many) you take home 100% revenue.

When should I avoid the Facebook Instant Articles placement?

Are you a publisher?

If the answer is no, you're going to want to avoid the hassle of this one.

If you want to create cool visual content that renders quickly, stick to using Canvas (now known as 'Instant Ads') with in-feed placements.

- In-stream Videos Placement

Ads will appear as short videos (5-15 seconds) in both live video or video on demand videos that your audience are watching on on Facebook.

It’s essentially like an ad break on television, so your advertisement appears during another organisation’s video content.

Example ad using the Facebook in-stream video placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook In-stream Videos placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook in-stream video placements

When should I use the Facebook in-stream videos placement?

Well, first things first - you're going to need a video ad. This can be an actual video or y'know, a slideshow (but who likes those?).

This one is great because of the fact it works like an ad break - users have to watch your video to continue watching what they want, so it certainly makes a great placement for Reach and Brand Awareness campaigns.

In-stream videos are perfect placements for getting your desired Facebook audience to find out who you are - in 15 seconds or less.

To make the most of this though, you'll have to make sure your video quality is excellent. No-one likes being made to wait to watch what they really want - especially if it's poor-quality, so make sure you've tested and positioned your video well before focusing solely on this one.

You don't want your brand awareness or engagement campaign to backfire by generating negative responses or sentiment.

When should I avoid the Facebook in-stream videos placement?

Don't have a video ad? Move right along.

You're also very limited with the available objectives here, so check the list above - near enough everything at the conversion end of the marketing funnel is a no-no, unless you have an app you're encouraging users to download - and even then, if they're sitting through your ad just to watch the video they want - are they really going to delay watching to download your app? Unlikely.

- Right Column Placement

Your ads will appear - you guessed it! - in the right side column on Facebook when users are browsing from a desktop computer.

Example ads using Facebook right column placements

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook Right Column placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook right column placements

When should I use the Facebook right column placement?

As you can see, there are limited objectives available here - however for good reason.

These ads appear where people generally expect to see ads on a website. As they scroll down the page, your ad will follow them, so right-column placements are perfect for retargeting campaigns.

The combination of objectives, ad types and desktop-only delivery make this a must have for B2C marketers attempting to lure back customers with a product they viewed or initiated checkout on.

This is also a great place for driving traffic to your website, whether B2B or B2C.

If people are willing to click away from their beloved Facebook to visit your site, they'll land red hot - just make sure your landing page has the goods to drive them further into the consideration or conversion stages.

When should I avoid the Facebook right column placement?

Well you'll have no choice but to avoid this one with the majority of objectives, if you're running a video ad or only targeting mobile users.

Otherwise, with the small number of options you have, it's likely to be well suited to your needs.

- Suggested Videos Placement

When users click on a video in their mobile news feed, it will open up in a player of ‘suggested videos’. Your video ad will be displayed as a sponsored video between these videos.

Example ad using the Facebook suggested videos placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook Suggested Videos placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook suggested video placements

When should I use the Facebook suggested videos placement?

When you have a video that is ridiculously eye-catching. Unlike the in-stream videos placement, users have no requirement to watch any of your video to get something they want, you just appear with all the other organic videos in their feed.

Yes, you can just keep this one ticked as well as the other available placements for video if you want but if you're not getting a good watch rate then you'll need to consider your video, your targeting, and whether this placement works for you.

You're likely to have the most success with this placement if your video is extremely short (so a good chunk of it has already played as a user scrolls) and if you have captions, as the likelihood is that users are scrolling with their sound off.

It's also a great one for the app-installs objective, you can just pop an animated screen video that shows off a bit of your app - have the 'install now' CTA et voila!

Unlike the in-stream videos placement, users here aren't necessarily watching something in particular, so if they come across your exciting video ad for your app, they'll be more likely to transfer their procrastination time to testing out your app instead!

When should I avoid the Facebook suggested videos placement?

Once again if you have no video, move along.

If you were going to compare the in-stream videos placement with this one, then this is arguably the lesser placement for the engagement objective, as users may be less likely to see a decent portion of your ad and want to respond to it.

It's worth always testing the two and adjusting accordingly.

With the other three objectives, you're pretty much good to go - so long as your ad delivers!

- Marketplace Placement

Ads will appear when a user is browsing Marketplace in the Facebook App on their phone.

Example ad using the Facebook marketplace placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook Marketplace placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook Marketplace placements

When might you use the Facebook marketplace placement?

This one has quite a broad variety of objectives available and for B2C marketers, its one well worth keeping ticked.

People are looking for things to buy in the marketplace, right? They're in the spending mood.

Use this as an opportunity to catch their eye with your latest product offering, get them to quickly sign up to your mailing list for exclusive offers or tempt them away from the second-hand world with your brand new or warranty-covered alternatives.

Yes they might be looking for something very specific and yes your ad might just be dismissed - but get your targeting right and you could generate some excellent traffic and conversions here.

Ads in the marketplace occur quite frequently as you scroll down, so this placement would also likely serve brand awareness and reach campaigns quite well.

When should I avoid the Facebook marketplace placement?

When flicking through the marketplace to see what ads I was served, I was surprised at the number of B2B ads as they certainly seemed to stick out and interrupt my (albeit pretend) bargain-browsing flow.

Whilst it's certainly a placement worth giving it a try, we'd generally say avoid B2B and any traffic ads, taking people away to just tell them about something else? Not likely to do much good for your campaign.

- Facebook Stories Placement

Your ad will appear in other people’s stories in Facebook.

Example ad using the Facebook stories placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Facebook Stories placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Facebook Stories placements

When should I use the Facebook Stories placement?

Given that Facebook stories work just like Instagram stories, these will work best with your strongest, dedicated ad creatives.

If you're using this placement - work the format - stand out with strong vertical content.

Objectives wise, the available options all fit with the location pretty well - reach and brand awareness obviously work well here given that you occupy the user's full screen (even for a moment).

It's also a pretty nifty placement to trial your lead-gen objectives in (so long as you're not taking users away to your own forms) and its a good place for B2C marketers to really show their artistic skills and drive prospects to convert.

When should I avoid the Facebook stories placement?

If you're not prepared to create content suited to the format, uncheck this.

Don't just bolt this on for landscape video or image ads, it's not likely to serve you well - you'll stick out like a sore thumb.

Amongst the available objectives, we'd argue that the traffic objective doesn't sit right here.

As always, it's worth testing your traffic objective ad out here - and perhaps it's not as much of an ask in Facebook as it is on Instagram - but are users really going to leave the stories of their friends and family to head to your site?

Placement options on Instagram

Given that with Instagram has such a streamlined offering, ad placements are only available in two locations.

- Instagram Feed Placement

Your ads will appear in the main feed of a user’s Instagram app.

Example ad using the Instagram feed placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Instagram Feed placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Instagram Feeds placements

When should I use the Instagram feed placement?

You might as well scroll up to the Facebook Feeds section - as the same pretty much applies here, you can't really go wrong with the majority of objectives delivered in Instagram.

Just like in the Facebook feed, your ads are appearing natively and - almost - seamlessly as part of a users experience, so it's always a relatively soft approach that is unlikely to do you harm.

If you plan on delivering your ads to Instagram alone, you're probably a B2C advertiser, if not - sure you want to do that? Either way, work with the format, kids.

When should I avoid the Instagram feed placement?

Well, if you want your ads to only deliver on desktop - you can't use this placement - likewise for page like and event response campaigns.

Otherwise, Instagram as an additional platform to Facebook (or indeed sole platform) is well worth testing, whatever your objective.

- Instagram Stories Placement

Your ads will appear between people’s stories on Instagram.

Example ad using the Instagram stories placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Instagram Stories placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Instagram Stories placements

When should I use the Instagram Stories placement?

I'm going to sound a little like a broken record here, but the answer here is really the same as for Facebook stories.

Work the format - because it's a great one - and definitely one worth using for brand awareness, reach and conversion campaigns.

As long as your visuals or videos are vertical, clear of too much text and short - you could do very well.

Lead gen and app install campaigns should also work well here, where users can easily ping you their information without leaving the app or (given that this placement is mobile only) jump straight to their app store.

When should I avoid the Instagram stories placement?

Once again - keep your lazy, heavy-text, landscape monstrosities away.

You know we're not sold on the traffic objective for this placement - but feel free to try it anyway.

Placement options on the Audience Network

The audience network is all about extending an advertiser's reach beyond Facebook and into other mobile apps and websites.

There are three options available for these ‘off-Facebook’ placements, though the first option itself contains three varied placements.

- Native, Banner and Interstitial Placement

Your ads will appear on apps or websites in the audience network.

  • Native ads are designed to ‘match the look, feel or experience of your app or website’ and will appear as though part of a users experience on an app, e.g. sandwiched between two news articles - the equivalent on facebook is to appear in the news feed.
Example native ad using the Audience Network native, banner and interstitial placement
  • Banner ads will appear at the top or bottom of a mobile app or website.
Example banner ad using the Audience Network native, banner and interstitial placement
  • Interstitial ads are full screen ads that appear between transitions within a mobile app, e.g. when users complete a level and move onto the next.
Example interstitial ad using the Audience Network native, banner and interstitial placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Audience Network Native, Banner and Interstitial placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Audience Network native, banner and interstitial placements

When should I use the Audience Network native, banner and interstitial placement?

Now this is a tricky one.

Facebook loves to tell you just how much cheaper your results will be using automatic placements which will, where your objective allows, include Audience Network placements.

Whilst your results might be cheaper, are they the results you want? We've seen many a marketer highlight the poor quality of their traffic via the Audience network, often blamed on fat fingers and poorly timed clicks.

Always check your bounce rate.

In our view, the audience network in general is a pretty good opportunity for reach campaigns, video views (short, captioned videos only) and retargeting conversion ads.

When should I avoid the Audience Network native, banner and interstitial placement?

Aside from the objectives and ad types you can't use, we'd avoid traffic and app installs straight off the bat.

The audience network is a collection of apps and websites, destinations outside Facebook that users have chosen to visit for whatever information, goods or services they provide.

If a user is in one app - what's the likelihood that they enjoy the interruption your interstitial ad brings so much that they download yours instead?

Likewise for traffic campaigns, this isn't google - users aren't likely to stop reading their article or browsing the site they're on in order to visit your website - unless by some ridiculously good luck your goods or services are perfectly aligned with the article or site they're already on. Chances are slim.

Don't forget - the audience network includes a huge number of apps and websites. If your ads would be particularly damaged by appearing next to sensitive content, make sure to use the Exclude Categories option.

You don't want your latest range of children's books appearing on Tinder.

- In-Stream Videos Placement

Your ads will appear as short (10-30 second) videos that can’t be skipped before, during or after video content in an audience network website video player.

Example ad using the Audience Network in-stream video placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Audience Network In-stream Videos placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Audience Network in-stream video placements

When should I use the Audience Network in-stream videos placement?

Similar to the Facebook in-stream placement, this one is pretty nifty because in order to get what they want (to watch the video they've clicked on) users will have to watch your ad.

That is of course, unless they get so bored that they click elsewhere.

This placement is likely to work well for the reach objective - as delivering videos across the audience network is certainly likely to put you about it bit more..

Whether it works particularly well for brand awareness, that's a difficult one to know - how often do you recall in-stream videos on your mobile?

One for testing though, definitely, and - as is the case with conversion campaigns - the ability to follow users 'off-facebook' is certainly tempting, though is likely to serve already established brands far better.

When should I avoid the audience network in-stream videos placement?

It really depends on your video creative here - and just how well suited to your target audience your ad is.

But to corner (and capture) your audience in a location you have no control over, with the aim of generating strong engagement? Seems like a big ask.

So we'd be wary of running campaigns here using the engagement objective.

- Rewarded Videos Placement

Your ads will appear as videos that users can watch in order to gain in-app rewards (e.g. extra lives)

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Audience Network Rewarded Videos placements

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Audience Network Rewarded Videos placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Audience Network Rewarded Videos placements

When should I use the Audience Network rewarded videos placement?

Well we don't really have a high number of options here, do we.

You'll need a video (that's a given) and will be wanting to either encourage app installs (in which case you'll need an app) or to generate conversions.

You're likely to have better luck with a conversion campaign here - reason being? Is a user going to ditch the app they're in to download yours?

Take the example ad above, for 'Empires and Puzzles'. I triggered that ad in the Duolingo app - an app for learning a new language - so whilst I might have fit their targeting (?!), it was luck of the draw that the app their ad was delivered in had zero relevance.

If however, the rewarded video was a conversion campaign for a brand I'm already aware of - perhaps I'd checked out some of their stuff before - I'd probably be happy to jump the educational ship in order to buy something fun. Just saying.

When should I avoid the Audience Network rewarded videos placement?

Your only objectives are either conversions or app installs - and this certainly isn't the strongest placement for either of those objectives - or indeed for video advertising in general.

It's pretty much a given that B2B would fall flat on its face here, and as above we'd likely avoid app installs unless your targeting is absolutely perfect.

As with everything though - give it a try - this might just be the placement for your app. Let us know if that one happens..

Placement options on Messenger

Since Facebook separated messenger from its main Facebook site and app, it’s become a new destination for targeted ads. Similar to Instagram, there aren’t really many places to advertise in such a lean environment, so there are just two options to choose from.

- Inbox Placement

Your ads will appear on the ‘Home’ tab within the messenger app.

Example ad using the Messenger inbox placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Messenger Inbox placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Messenger Inbox placements

When should I use the Messenger Inbox placement?

Whilst you may be somewhat limited in your objectives here, this one certainly falls in line with being worth your time - given the literal positioning of your ad within a user's messenger homepage.

Yes it might stick out more than an ad within Facebook or Instagram's main feed - but if you're targeting well, users are unlikely to hate you for it - in fact we think all of the available objectives are pretty well aligned with this placement.

When should I avoid the Messenger Inbox placement?

Well, obviously if you're targeting desktop users or gunning for any of the objectives in red.

Otherwise, instead of just considering the available objectives here, you need to consider your business itself and the ad creative you need to fulfill your objective.

Look at the ad real-estate within Messenger - pretty small, right?

Just how complex an offering do you have? Are you B2B? Are you a newcomer selling something particularly expensive?

These are all things to consider. This is not the place for a 5-minute explainer video or an ad that requires anything more than a sentence of text.

If you can't keep it simple with any of these objectives, avoid this placement - you and your audience will get nothing from it.

- Sponsored Messages Placement

Your ads will appear as messages delivered directly to a person who already has an existing conversation with your page in messenger.

Example ad using Messenger sponsored messages placement

What objectives, ad formats and devices are available for the Messenger Sponsored Messages placement?

Objectives, ad formats and devices available for Messenger Sponsored Message placements

When should I use the Messenger Sponsored Messages placement?

Take a look at the table above. I'll give you a minute..

Time's up. Did you get it?

Correct! You should use the sponsored messages placement if you're running a sponsored messages campaign!

You literally have no choice.

When should I avoid the Messenger Sponsored Messages placement?

If you want to do anything other than send an image ad to users who have already engaged in a messenger conversation with your Facebook page.

A nice simple one to finish up on, eh?

Summary

We made it! We survived on our journey through the labyrinth of choice that is Facebook's placement options.

So uh...what did we learn?

Here are some takeaways:

  • If you're new, you should test out the 'Automatic Placements' option to find out what placements deliver more bang for your advertising buck.
  • Once you can no longer claim ignorance, use the 'Edit Placements' option and gain more control over delivering ads in the places that make sense for your organisation, objectives, audience and ad type.
  • Facebook Feeds is your Switzerland - you can't go wrong with keeping this one ticked at all times.
  • The Audience Network may not be as appealing as it sounds - try your own split test to the same target audience - with and without.
  • Stories are on the up - just make sure your creative is dressed for the occasion.
  • Marketplace could be a dark horse for B2C marketers.
  • If you need to, review the publisher list and create a block list of apps and pages you don't want your content to appear on (or just use the exclude categories available to you).

Whilst the number of placements might seem overwhelming, don't panic just yet.

Remember that they'll automatically narrow themselves down based on your chosen objective and ad type - let those be your focus.

The best thing you can do - as with everything when it comes to Facebook advertising - is to test.

So long as you do that, you'll be armed with the information you need to deliver the best performing ads for your organisation.

Good luck!

Once you know what works well for your organisation - you can set automated rules that take action based on your campaign, ad set or ad performance.

How? Get your free trial of TrustAds here!

References:
1. Facebook Business - Available ad placements for marketing objectives
2. Facebook Business - About the delivery system: placements

Further reading:
1. Engadget.com - Get ready for ads in Facebook stories
2. Wordstream - The ultimate guide to Facebook ad placement optimization