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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser interviewed Phoenix Ha, the CEO of AdBeacon, a Facebook ad optimization platform. Phoenix explains the impact of iOS 14 on Facebook Ads and how marketers can get prepared for this update. She also talked about AdBeacon and explained the importance of a new approach to ad optimization. Watch now for some profound insights.
Question everything always, but be graceful about it and also understand your audience and be smart about how & when you want to speak up & and when you don’t.
Thank you. Thanks for having me and the Lego set is the most important part of that entire intro.
Highly rebellious and a little too direct for my own good so, just a little background. I’m half-Chinese and have Persian.
Yeah, it’s a rare combination.
I was very direct, and I also moved from Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks, which is a very conservative area, it’s very different, it’s predominantly white. Asian community was building. So, I would say I was very rebellious and I was trying to figure out a way to fit in, a little too direct for my own good. But I made it through.
Great question. I have no idea because I remember when we were in high school, I was part of this thing called ethos, which is in an entrepreneurial program and they’re like, okay, we have this project and it was very much marketing. You’ve come up with products to find an actual marketing strategy and I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I was like, I don’t want anything to do with this. And I distinctly remember that and laugh at that now. But I think what happened was when I was in college at sea funds, I originally started at California State University, Northridge, and I was not doing well, I was failing all my classes, and I was not interested. I was just not in a good headspace. But I went to a macro econ course that had a 60% bill rate. And for some reason, it just clicked. It just made sense to me. It was common sense. I don’t know how, but it did and then I ended up moving back home and I went to California Lutheran University. I love that university, that’s why I teach there now. They tailored the teaching to be a lot more hands-on and applicable to everyday life and then it sparked this kind of interest. And I think to answer your question a little bit more directly would be there was this marketing agency at the time, I was modeling and they were like one of the first creative agencies that had like three different silos, experiential, PR, and creative and to get an internship there, it was a one year wait. It was an unpaid internship in downtown L.A., which, by the way, for reference, is about an hour and a half drive in traffic. From where I was at and you go there and just grind and you’re working till 3 a.m., but you’re working on some of the most exciting projects. And through that process, I fell in love with marketing. And then from there, I learned about digital marketing and I kind of explored it.
Yes. I sat there and I was like, I don’t care what I do and I was in school, too. I was like, I don’t care what I have to do, but I am going to get at least a part-time or full-time position here. I don’t know what and how, but I approved myself and I knew there was a click in my head of this is the time to work and I was able to achieve a full time and then I ended up spearheading my own department there.
You kind of have to be handy, right?
All right. Absolutely. I’m dealing with one right now that I have to address correctly after this podcast. But, you know, it’s a tough topic to talk about for a multitude of reasons. You know, I can either lose the audience right now or I mean, it’s two different things.
No. This is a heartbeat topic, actually, for me. I love speaking on it. It’s years of refinement to isolate any group of people. So, let me just start off with something. I love men in the sense of my colleagues, everything. Some of my best mentors were men, some of my best mentors were women and I think it comes down to people and how we treat people. I really am a firm believer that if you just looked at my resume, that’d be amazing. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in, and that is not the reality. And that’s okay. So, as a female, I have to understand and I have to understand my audience, like any type of marketing, and tailor how I market myself to my audience. Is that fair? Absolutely not. But do I need to do that strategically? Absolutely. So, in a perfect world, I’d be able to do exactly what you do and get the same amount of praise. But that’s just not the case. I knew I had to work hard, I knew that I had to stand out and be an exceptional female in space. I also knew that I couldn’t be a pushover and I had to stand my ground and certain aspects. Had to be, I wouldn’t say cocky, but confident. I had to be stern, but not problematic. I had to be direct and not emotional. And I had to get a higher education to sit at the table for people to hear me.
That’s okay and I’m fine with it and I’ll make it worth it. I hope that answers your question a little bit.
Just do it. Go for it. This is my motto and I might curse here, or should I just avoid that?
Okay. So, my biggest motto is you can talk some shit, but you’re going to have to back your shit. And with women in this space, I would say, go for it. No one’s going to stop you until you stop yourself. There is no wrong style to do anything as long as you have data to back whatever stance you have. Question everything, always but be graceful about it and also understand your audience and be smart about when you want to speak up and when you don’t. It’s like with children, I always go like, okay, there’s a lot of toddlers in my life right now are none of my own, but there’s a lot of toddlers and I always tell them I’m like, this is what you’re going to stomp your feet over. You could have done this for Disneyland, but you’re doing this over a lollipop, right? It’s the same concept as like, figure out when you want to stomp the feet and then make. So that would be my word of advice.
Yeah, I would say so. I mean, here is my theory on everything. Everyone’s just figuring it out. No one’s an expert in anything. You have experience, for sure but if you stay curious. I call marketers professional or digital marketers professional button clickers, or button pushers because that’s all we are. We click the same buttons; we just do it in strategic ways. So, you know, I’m excited for the next 18-year-old, 17-year-old kid that comes up with a whole new concept of how to create content and publish content.
And do it in a disruptive way. TikTok is a perfect example of that. These kids are coming through and just demolishing it and adults too and I love it.
No, I had a very weird story on how I came into this space, and it is actually hilarious. I’ll preface this, I did go to Dubai and speak on Facebook ads and Ad World. It was weird, I had a very quick push to the front and what most people didn’t realize, I was rubbing elbows with some of these legends. Keep in mind, I’m so blessed to be able to do that and my friends now but keep in mind, like two years prior, I didn’t even know what page social was. So yeah, it was a really interesting transition. My background is specifically, like I said, in experiential PR and creative. So conceptually, for example, like impossible burgers, we were there at the forefront when Impossible Burgers was just thinking about launching what that launch plan was, we had pitched them all these different ideas from start to finish. Activation-wise, what are we going to do in terms of pop-ups and get people involved, PR side, how are we going to have influencers? That my thing was communications manager was influencer relations and making sure the right people were in the right seats to propel the brand and the image and then all the way down to execution. So, that was really interesting to me and very creative, dense on the creativity and I loved it. However, that world isn’t really my world. I’m a lot more mellow, I could give a crap about body image, and I don’t want to gossip all day. That just wasn’t my vibe. And that’s okay. there’s nothing wrong with that, but it just wasn’t me. So, I left and I actually went internally to Super Footwear, which is a skateboarding company, and I loved it because at heart I’m a tomboy and skate and I learned all about that. But again, it was super fun again. And I worked with K-Swiss in that capacity as well because they’re under the same umbrella and learned a lot about that side. But again, really not digital marketing. I did more of the organic side and creative thinking globally. Now fast forward to the pandemic. I wanted to help out small businesses. I was like, Oh, what’s the next challenge? I did that. I quit my job at Super and I was like, let me help small businesses. So, I ended up becoming a marketing director of a small brewery. And it was very difficult, but it was also a great time for growth. And during the pandemic, I was let go. Literally the day we went down and shut down, I sent emails, how do you want to proceed? And he’s like, I’m so sorry we’re just not able to stay in at this time. It was the first and hopefully, only time I will ever be let go of a job. But it was humbling, it was terrifying, but it made for sure. So, I got this ad at national positions for a paid social or actually paid search and I was like, oh, they’re meaning to search things. How interesting I was hired on as a junior analyst for paid social because of my creative background and fell in love with it. I don’t know if you’re an extreme personality like I am, but.
So within another short amount of time it sparked and I found another paid social and I would breathe and just keep going and I started learning all the different little silos and then quickly rows kind of inequality in that space. So again, it kind of worked out because iOS 14 came out maybe six months after, I had already gotten my teeth sunk in and a big place in Facebook ads. So, it was kind of like perfect timing.
So to answer the first part of the question personally, it made my career. Part of me is a little guilty because it gave me a platform and it gave me a voice, and I’ll explain that later. But I think in terms of impact, it was detrimental to a lot of companies. I think for me, it opened up my eyes to understand what was truly going on before we even opened our eyes. Like you don’t know you’re sitting in a pile of feces until someone tells you, by the way, you’ve been sitting in a pile of feces this whole time. And that’s I think that’s the situation that iOS opened our eyes to. So, number one, I think what happened was every business owner was like, well, I’m not getting the return that I got before and I’m not getting nearly the amount of revenue I had. Three, iOS, if this is hurting me. Number two is marketers didn’t know how to pivot because there were no answers to their questions and we had to get creative again and then number three is, things started getting worse where we weren’t getting any information in terms of like for example, I had some clients that would say you had four purchases today and no revenue was coming through. As to how much. There’s no way to identify what those purchases were, purchases were delayed. So, you didn’t know if they came in today or two days ago, and then you’re not able to optimize what the best audiences are. You just don’t know what’s going on, you’re just shooting in the dark and spending hundreds of millions of dollars while hoping it works. It had a huge impact.
I was very concerned about the marketers and say it didn’t impact them really at all. I was very concerned. As I interview, I wonder…
Yes, it is.
I mean, you’ve got this thing called the Magical Conversion API, which was supposed to solve all the issues. It did actually help a bit, but I didn’t really see much. I just don’t trust the data anymore. I wouldn’t blame Facebook; I think the number one thing is they’re doing whatever they can with the space that they have and the parameters and boundaries that they have. However, I truly believe that’s why we built Ad Beacon. You know, you need a first-party data tracking tool, you have to, in the space.
Yes, yes. To answer your question in a multipronged way you can, but not from Facebook. You need a first party like you need Ad Beacon. But you don’t have the ability to do a breakdown anymore, so you don’t actually have that data available to you. Back in the day, you were able to have a breakdown. You were able to see what time they purchased, where they purchased, geographic range, gender, what devices, etc. None of that is available anymore. Everything is completely blank. You’ll still see the breakdown, but it’ll just have 00000 and at the end, it will see 15 purchases, but it will not tell you any information about that. So that’s gone. Wow, that’s been gone. That was a really big problem because I can’t even deduce to figure out if this person came in this day and then the second thing is downloading the report of those email addresses. We pivoted where I was like, LCV is super important. So, I was like, okay, we need to pivot our strategy to get email addresses and then downloader of email addresses, put them back and create lookalike audiences like you were saying. But we have Ad Beacon and we know that there Facebook had a part of it and their email is more likely to be qualified as the email that they use on Facebook. It’s just the way my brain thinks. How do we create a more qualified audience based on purchase data from the site? So, it’s the same thing, but it’s not. And it’s way more accurate because it’s based on quick data.
Great question. So, when I was 14 heads, I knew it was on its way, but I didn’t know to what degree.
And then as I started seeing more issues, I went into a forum that was like a branch of a couple hundred thousand advertisers and Facebook, and I said, Hey, what is everyone doing? Nobody was talking, nobody was saying anything. Everyone was holding their cards close. And I’m like, this is complete BS, come on, guys. So I went on a Facebook Live and I was like, This is what I know, this is everything I know and this is still my style to this day. I have yet to hear someone actually break down what they’re doing, the pivot.
Right. I don’t believe most people, I believe this is your secret, right? The way you can be creative. However, I went online and said, hey, look, the Wall Street Journal published this article about how people are testing and maybe testing Android versus Apple users because you shouldn’t do that based on their latest updates. So, you can stop it at a specific update. So, I was like, That’s interesting. Do I want to play with that? I do not want to play with that. Did it that a case study spoke about an ad world and showed how I actually identified who the consumer is now for the clients in a much different way and then being able to strategically put ad dollars there and see a lift. This is a temporary Band-Aid solution during that time.
That was okay. What other things are in the space I discovered first-party data tracking is interesting because I was not an expert in that at the time and I had seen so many different platforms come out.
I went in there and I did it. Very expensive and I did not like it. I thought it was very interesting. However, I’m like, okay, let me keep looking for other solutions. So, I tried out multiple platforms, so many platforms, and paid a lot of money just to see and realize if you don’t like something, build something and build something that I’m really proud of so I can solve the issue. In terms of UI and UX, in terms of actually optimizing the platform. Another big thing like the wake of reports, which I thought was interesting, was that Wicked does all this reporting, which is great, but it’s not in real-time. How am I supposed to make my decisions if it’s not in real-time? So, Ad Beacon refreshes every 15 minutes?
Yeah, it doesn’t matter anymore because Facebook owns that data, therefore it is always third-party data. So, whatever Facebook is telling you is a purchase. What did they still buy as a purchase? It’s a third-party report.
So TikTok, third party, Facebook, the third party. Anything coming from an app or something separate is a third party. Everything coming from your site is the first party. So, we got ahead of it and we say instead of having Facebook UTM parameters that report into G.A., which is what you’re doing. You’re doing Ad beacon parameters in Facebook and Google and whatever platforms correlate with the code or our pixel or fingerprint on the sites. And then now they connect.
You own that data and you know for a fact from start to finish where it started.
Yeah. I mean, you still need a Facebook pixel.
Oh, okay. So, there’s something that people need to understand that’s a little bit more granular. So, the argument would be, well, it shouldn’t be that different. The data that’s coming from Facebook and the data that’s coming from Ad Beacon, then, yeah, there is a big difference. So, there are two key elements here, I really want to harp on for those who shouldn’t be like I am.
Number one is the attribution window and so back in the day, we had a 28-day quick seven-day view. So, to everybody who doesn’t know what that means, it just means if someone clicked within 28 days of looking or putting your ad on Facebook or viewed your ad within seven days, Facebook got credit for that purchase. And that’s just what it means.
Yeah. No, I would say that it was the full impact and what that means. So, that goes back to Ad Beacon as we have formed four models for attribution models, we have first quick. So, if anyone bought off the first click last click in reverse, then we have a linear and full impact. The full impact and the simplest way to understand is, hey, I bought this, tiger balm. The tiger balm is $5. Let’s just say without inflation, right? It was $5. And if Facebook had any part of the sale in terms of clicks, then I get $5.
Attributed. So, Facebook, at about any point, let’s just say there are 15 touch points before someone buys this, which is very expensive. Then Facebook still gets credit for $5. Now, if we did linear and it only had two out of five clicks was Facebook, then you only get 2/5 or 2/5 of that. If that makes sense as credit. So, there are different types of modeling. I believe fully that Facebook visual impact modeling, because no matter what part of the process they had for the ultimate goal, which was the sale, you got credit for it. That’s why there was always overreporting in terms of Google and Facebook and who was getting the credit, but most likely both of them had a part in that.
Correct. So, like I was saying, with that attribution model Facebook had, 28 days click or 7-day view. And it actually got cut down to 7 days’ click or 1-day view. So now your time window is a lot shorter. This impact leads and that’s why they’re like okay their region campaigns are going to like suffered severely from this. But also, let’s just say you have a really high price item. People are going to take a longer period of time to make that decision. We actually brought that back. You can come all the way out to 100 days and click data and we’ll be able to tell you how long that customer journey is, and then you’ll see how the data really skews. And then also the next thing to is something called view data. So, we don’t have view data. View data is something that Facebook has.
Yeah, so think about it like a billboard. You drive by a billboard, who’s to say that billboard didn’t impact you to buy the said product? But there’s no way for us to really track that. Right?
Exactly. But there’s no real way. But Facebook can say, hey, someone beat our ad, so therefore we get credit. But there’s no way for us to really know that because Facebook has a proprietary blend of certain metrics that, let’s say you view that ad, and video views, little things like that. So, then they report to you, hey, by the way, your 15 sales, you’re like, that’s weird. I don’t really see that there. But it was actually a Google sale because of a click and they viewed our ad. So, I understand the argument that Facebook didn’t have an impact.
7 days click or 1-day view. So, this is something Ad beacon, it just clicks data. Everything is clicking data and existing from our purchasers. So, I’m not just coming and storing all the data of people, adding to CART. That’s not what I’m doing, what I’m doing is I’m storing the data of people who purchase to make better decisions and to really understand actually what revenue is coming from Facebook.
I believe so, yes.
Right, we can create a look like audience.
There are just a lot of really cool things, and we took it a couple of steps further. So, Ad beacon looks like Facebook, on purpose because I don’t like having to learn a new platform.
Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing. We’re advocates of Facebook. We’re not against it. And again, to all the people who are like, do we jump ship, I get that question all the time like, we’re not engaging with ads or with Facebook anymore. It’s like, I’m sorry, purchasers are still from there. The problem is you’re not able to track. So, would you rather have a piece of the pie or would you rather go to TikTok and try again to fish through a very oversaturated barrel and also a platform that is not formulated for people to purchase often? So, it’s time, But it’s a solution I’m very proud of.
I don’t know if I would say, I mean, yes, it gets like my biggest motto too is you are the marketer. I am not going to teach you how to be a better marketer, but what I am going to tell you are the tips and tricks that I use on this platform. Because, you know, similar to your story, you look outside the box. That’s what I love about this.
This group of people. But yeah, what I will say at the very least is people will help you identify what is working and what isn’t working in your current campaigns, and then you can double down on those efforts a lot more effectively.
Right now, it’s perfect and It’s super seamless with Shopify, we can do it for WooCommerce, and Laravel, and we can customize it for anything. However, e-commerce is where it thrives and we also build part of the platform, which is basically like Shopify. We pull Shopify data for predictive modeling. Do we also pull it for product reports like what are the top product? Everything that you would need as a marketer in order for you to optimize and create campaigns and scale them is in there. You don’t have to keep having multiple tabs open, trying to identify. You can also optimize in the platform, you can scale your campaigns on the platform, you completely optimize within Ad beacon or you can be a purist and go over to Facebook. It’s up to you because there are links to your campaigns. It’s like there’s a creative breakdown.
You can always just find me on LinkedIn. We’re just launching a YouTube channel, in which I’m going to sell tips and tricks and talk about Ad beacon. I’d also just talk about what’s going on in this space. Very similar to this vibe. Just go to adbeacon.com. You can do a 14-day trial or I can do a demo with you and show you firsthand and go from there.
It was a pleasure being here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
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