Facebook’s Changes Are A-OK And So Are You

March 30, 2018

Unless you’ve been on a well-earned, device-free vacation or have decided to say “hell with it” to pursue your life-long dream of joining a competitive luge team, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that Facebook has been under incredible scrutiny and is making numerous changes to its advertising platform. From not terribly well-articulated user privacy positions to its data being used by Cambridge Analytica to influence our political campaigns, Facebook simply had to do something. Anything.

And that they have. The company announced yesterday that they will no longer provide to advertisers some of its more advanced audience segmentation services provided by third-party data providers like Acxiom, Oracle and the like. (RIP Acxiom’s stock, by the way.) They call these their Partner Categories. The changes are rolling out first overseas with a US rollout complete by October.

Phil Davis, Ciceron’s Director of Social Marketing, had an extensive call with our Facebook reps. He has updated us on the changes. Facebook ran an analysis of our campaigns and found that the new changes would have only impacted 15% of our overall campaign spend.

Once again, the major changes at Facebook have everything to do with third-party data, meaning the data you purchase from within Facebook that originates from other data companies. So what does this mean for you? First off — and this is quite telling for each and every one of you — it is paramount that you bring your own data and insights about your audiences into Facebook to do proper targeting and look-alikes and not be overly reliant on Facebook and their partners to do this work for you. We’ve been stressing this for years: brands have to get their heads around their own data — commonly called “first party data.” Having your own data gives you the flexibility to use it in ways that are more relevant and, quite frankly, more pure to your users. You’ve earned that data. You’ve earned consumer trust.

Facebook has made it clear to us as well that this approach is really the only way to go. In their words:

Outside of Partner Categories and other third-party targeting data, the full range of our targeting and optimization tools will continue to be available — including core audience targeting (demographics, location, and interests), Custom Audiences (helping you find existing customers and contacts on Facebook), Lookalike Audiences (helping you find people on Facebook who are similar to your customers or contacts), and Offline Event Sets.

This is their way of saying that if you want to match your data against Facebook users who look like your best customers, have at it. They will not be limiting this. For the majority of you, we do this already (hence why only 15% of Ciceron’s campaign spend are impacted by these changes). Expect that other platforms will follow suit, not just Facebook. Google, Snapchat, Twitter and other social media platforms are all in the crosshairs to protect their users. Remember that Instagram is already a Facebook company.

While Facebook has done away with Partner Categories, let’s remind ourselves that they will continue to have a plethora of other targeting criteria available, based on consumer actions within the platform, pixel data from your CRMs or data management platforms (DMPs) and information consumers choose to be public.

Facebook has rolled out extensive changes to be more transparent about what consumer information is being used and how. The updated ad preferences dashboard enables users to see (and edit) the interests, websites and personal information that helps feed the Facebook targeting criteria. Facebook even goes as far as showcasing the types of ads that will a user will see based upon that information:

All of this is a big deal because Facebook is a big deal. Facebook as a marketing platform is not only compelling, it delivers. Personally, I’m glad that they’ve had to go all-in on this approach. We need Facebook to be a safe place to do business. Secondly, it’s really pressuring brands to get a firm handle on their data and not be completely beholden to third party data providers. And why not? Third-party data is ridiculously expensive, and most brands have giant piles of their own consumer data that’s not being leveraged. Sometimes it takes the threat of pending doom to drive best practices.

Finally, according to our Facebook reps, here is info on the rollout with timelines:

In an attempt to minimize disruption, we will allow time for you to update your targeting. In light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, we have created a timeline to comply with the regulation:

  • May 10: After this date, you will no longer be able to create or edit campaign using Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France; however, they will be allowed to continue running until May 24.
  • May 25: We will no longer deliver to Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France, and these targeting options will no longer be available for use on our platform. You will notified to update any targeting containing impacted Partner Categories before this date.
  • June 30: Last day for creating new or editing existing campaigns using non-EU Partner Categories; they will be allowed to run until September 30.
  • October 1: All other Partner Categories will no longer be available as targeting options on our platform and we will stop delivering against these audiences. You will be notified to update your targeting by this date (US)

In closing, I want you to know that if I thought we were totally hosed by Facebook’s decision, I would tell you. Being a cicerone requires me to do so. If, for example, Facebook told us that we couldn’t bring our own data into it to conduct highly targeted campaigns, that would have been a death blow. We would all be scrambling to figure out what to do. It would have been catastrophic for our clients who have enjoyed tremendous success and conversion from Facebook. Clearly, Facebook knows this too. Wall Street would have killed them off. The changes they’ve made are good for everyone, most notably Facebook but for us and you as well.

I’m much less concerned than I was before. Thank you to Phil, Amber Verhulst, Ashley Evenson, and Jody Biagini from the Ciceron Media Group for helping us navigate these changes. If you have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me or your account manager at any time.

Now hang up the email and get your data in order.

Over and out.