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Meta unveils A.I. ‘testing playground’ to help advertisers build campaigns

The Facebook application on a smartphone arranged in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Tiffany Hagler-Geard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Meta on Thursday announced several new tools and services, powered by artificial intelligence, to help advertisers efficiently build ads and improve campaign results.

At an event in New York, Meta unveiled the AI Sandbox, which it called a “testing playground” for advertisers to use as they try out new generative AI-powered ad tools.

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It’s Meta’s latest effort to show investors and advertisers that hefty investments in the red hot AI space are paying off as the company reckons with slowing ad growth and a costly transition to the metaverse. In Meta’s most recent earnings call, finance chief Susan Li said the company’s capital expenditure for the year will be between $30 billion and $33 billion, an outlook that “reflects our ongoing build-out of AI capacity to support ads, Feed and Reels, along with an increased investment in capacity for our generative AI initiatives.”

Meta said Thursday that it’s been working with a small group of advertisers on three AI Sandbox tools so far: text variation, background generation and image outcropping.

Text variation generates several versions of an advertiser’s copy, giving it the option to choose which might work best for certain audiences. The background generation tool also relies on text, using inputs to create images that advertisers can use as the background of their material.

Courtesy: Facebook

In a prepared demo, Meta showed how prompts such as “NYC street blurred” and “snow mountain blurred abstract high quality” would generate the corresponding background image behind a product.

With image outcropping, advertisers are able to automatically adapt images to be the correct size across Meta’s platforms. If an advertiser wants to post on Instagram’s main feed as well as Stories and Reels, for example, it will only have to adjust one image for all three.

John Hegeman, Meta’s vice president of monetization, said the new offerings will ultimately help advertisers save time and achieve “better performance” with their ads.

“The aim here, again, is really to quickly test and learn and figure out which parts of these new capabilities are turning out to be most helpful for businesses to achieve their goals,” Hegeman said at the event.

Meta said it will gradually expand access to AI Sandbox to more advertisers starting in July.

The company also announced several AI-powered updates to Meta Advantage, its portfolio of automated tools and products that advertisers can use to enhance their campaigns. Meta has started rolling out an automated performance comparisons report, and in the coming months will begin introducing features that improve audience reach and promote dynamic video ads.

Hegeman said Meta has been investing “tens of billions of dollars” into AI each year, and that the company is using larger and more complex models in its ad systems. He said the advanced models will help drive better results for businesses.

“Overall, the generative AI space is developing incredibly quickly right now and it’s a very exciting time,” he said. “Our unique opportunity is to integrate these features over time into our products.”

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