Meta’s efforts to overhaul its advertising technology in response to Apple’s privacy changes are leading to bumper results for brands but also fears from marketers they are being forced to relinquish too much control to the social media platform.The $440bn company has been pouring investment into applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to its advertising systems in recent months.

The aim is partly to overcome the restrictions introduced by Apple two years ago that force apps to get permission to track users and serve them personalised adverts. Meta said it lost around $10bn in revenue in the nine months after Apple rolled out its privacy changes in April 2021.Meta has typically allowed advertisers to target users on the Facebook and Instagram apps based on behaviours gleaned from users’ online activities outside the platform, as well as characteristics such as age and gender.

Now, an offering launched in August called Advantage+ uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate multiple adverts according to the specific objectives of the marketer, such as whether a brand is seeking to sell products or win new customers.

The algorithms can run tests of potential ads and select what they think will be most effective, with the option to automatically alter text and images. Meta said it had invested in dramatically expanding its computing power in order to train these more complex AI models on larger data sets. With less granular data available on the individual user, Meta instead is generating countless variations of adverts, assessing how well they resonate with audiences and then flooding the market with the variants that perform best. Multiple advertisers and company insiders told the Financial Times the Advantage+ tool is significantly boosting the performance of advertising campaigns in ways that allow it to recover lost ground since Apple’s privacy changes. Meta has spent more on revamping its AI advertising capabilities to battle the fallout from Apple’s changes than on chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s lossmaking push to build a digital avatar-filled metaverse, according to one senior staffer.