ReTargeter Blog

Facebook Ads API vs. Facebook Exchange: What’s the Difference?

Disclaimer: In 2016 Facebook chose to close their Ad Exchange (FBX). Third-party vendors can still purchase ads on Facebook through the company’s “application programming interface.”

With the 2012 launch of the Facebook Exchange (FBX), many advertisers have been left wondering what the exchange actually is and how it differs from Facebook’s many other advertising options. In particular, many have found it difficult to differentiate between the Facebook Ads API and the Facebook Exchange. If that confusion sounds familiar, here’s a breakdown of the Ads API and the Exchange:

What Is Facebook Ads API?

Facebook Ads API is a limited program, available only to advertisers, ad tech vendors, or agencies who have applied and been approved by Facebook. The Ads API allows the API partner to build campaigns at scale via the API rather than through Facebook’s own interface. It’s designed to help large brands more effectively manage a large volume of different campaigns and for agencies and vendors to re-sell customized Facebook ads to smaller businesses efficiently and at scale.

For example, if you’re a large international brand who needs to create one ad for each of your 100 products in 10 different languages, the API tool would let you create all 1,000 ads at once, rather than creating them individually through Facebook’s Advertising Manager. API partnerships are available for some brands, but many partners are advertising vendors or agencies who sell Facebook ads directly to advertisers, typically as part of a broader set of digital marketing solutions.

Here’s how Facebook describes the benefits of the Ads API:

If you are a marketer:
Getting access to our API will allow you to build the internal tools that best address your specific needs, are integrated within your internal system, and therefore allow you to more efficiently and creatively manage your marketing programs on Facebook.

If you are a tool developer or agency:
Integrating with our Facebook APIs will allow you to help your clients take full advantage of the vast array of solutions that Facebook offers for marketers. Although Facebook will continue to improve native applications like Pages and Ads Manager, we focus on core functionality that meets the needs of most users and marketers, and offer APIs that third-party partners can use to meet the needs of more specific markets such as very large advertisers, advertisers in specific verticals, or communities with unique needs such as non-profit organizations.

Facebook Ads API only provides access to advertising options that are otherwise available through Facebook ads platform, in a manner that’s more scalable and customizable. Though the experience may be different, the ads themselves are fundamentally the same as those available through Facebook’s editor tools—, the specs, the targeting parameters, etc. are all the same.

What Is Facebook Exchange?

Facebook Exchange (FBX) is Facebook’s real-time bidding exchange comprised of selected Facebook ad inventory. FBX is the only place in Facebook’s ad ecosystem where advertisers can serve retargeted ads, or ads based on users’ previous web-browsing.

For advertisers already running a retargeting campaign, FBX is essentially another ad exchange (like Google’s DoubleClick or Yahoo’s RightMedia) that a DSP or retargeting provider can plug into.

For Facebook advertisers, FBX is unique. Currently, there is no self-service option and FBX cannot be accessed through any of Facebook’s Ads tools, including the Ads API. FBX can only be accessed through one of Facebook’s preferred FBX partners, some, but not all, of which are also Ads API partners. FBX partners range from full-service DSPs (some of whom also offer Facebook advertising) to more specialized retargeting shops who do not offer any other Facebook Ads products.


Ultimately, Facebook Ads API is a tool for brands and agencies to more effectively scale Facebook’s core ad products. FBX is a separate product entirely—it’s the only place on Facebook where you can advertise based on the previous actions of your target audience. Facebook Ads API partnerships only make sense for a specific subset of advertisers, but FBX makes sense for any marketer who could benefit from retargeting. If you’’re looking into new Facebook solutions, while the API may not be for you, there’s a good chance FBX is.



Case Study – Watters

Watters Logo | ReTargeter

Watters is the brainchild of designer Vatana Watters. For over 30 years, it has been the leader in offering luxurious designer bridal gowns, innovative bridesmaids dresses, classic special occasion dresses for mothers of the wedding, and adorable dresses for flower girls and junior bridesmaids around the world. Selling primarily at trunk shows and in third-party […]

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