Is Facebook targeted advertising going away?

by | Sep 16, 2021

With the launch of Apple’s iOS 14.5 operating system in April, digital privacy – and with it online advertising – changed forever.

The newest versions of the operating system now allow users to opt out of various tracking and monitoring within apps. And part of this is allowing users to opt out of personalised ad tracking.

For people who choose to opt out, it doesn’t mean they will no longer see ads, it just means the ads they are shown will potentially be irrelevant.

And it’s estimated that as many as 96% of users given the choice to opt out of tracking have done so (the stats on this have varied over the past few months).

So what does this mean for platforms like Facebook, which so many businesses use as one of their main (or only) new customer and lead sources?

Well firstly, at MINT we always remind members that we don’t own these platforms and if we rely to heavily on any of them it can change overnight. And it did in April!

Is it bye bye for retargeting?

Yes and no. Any retargeting audiences you’ve created from your website (ie using someone’s browser cookies to show them ads after visiting your website) will have already decreased and will probably continue to decrease as more Apple users upgrade – and especially if Android follows suit.

But I spoke to an advertising expert called Michael from Facebook who told me that advertisers are changing how they build their retargeting audiences. You can easily show ads to people who like your page (sure we’ve all done that), or have interacted with your content, watched a video, responded to an event or visited your Instagram page. There’s a really good short video on How To Retarget on Facebook After iOS 14 here.

The more sources you add to your audience, the better, was Michael’s advice.

And remember, you can also upload customer and email lists to Facebook Ads Manager (just make sure you tell people you might be doing this in your privacy policy).

The wider the audience the better?

Apparently, wide is the new narrow.

This is contradictory to what Facebook has told us in the past – which was “the more targeted the better” when it comes to creating cold audiences. However in my chat with Michael, I asked if he had any advice on targeting brand new audiences, ie people who haven’t interacted with your brand already, and how to hone in on certain interests.

His advice was to select an age range and location – and that’s all. Facebook is now better than us at determining audience interests. Each ad campaign you launch will go into a period of ‘learning’ where it does this work for you.

If your product or service is niche, Michael did say you can set up two or three ad sets using different audiences – one broad and another one or two with specified interests – and see which one works best.

Does Facebook targeting it work?

You tell me – do you see ads on Facebook for brands, products and services you’re interested in? The answer is probably “sometimes”. And did you know you can see some of the criteria the advertisers are using to target you? Probably “no” on this one?

I have been screenshotting this in the last few days.

Every ad you see on Facebook will say “sponsored” somewhere on it. If you click on the 3 little dots (known as the kebab menu) you have a number of options including “Why am I seeing this ad?”. Click on that and it will show you how you’ve fallen into the audience criteria.

Screenshot of Facebook advertising information options

Sometimes, the criteria is as basic is age range and location, as Michael suggested, however it will show you if the advertiser is using other methods…

The screenshots below show ads I’ve been served in my feed are using:

  • Age range
  • Location
  • Interacted with page
  • Category (small business owner)
  • Interests (Photoshop, Packaging & Labeling)

Screenshot of Facebook advertising information for four different ads, showing why the ad was shown to the user.

This doesn’t show us all of the ad criteria – that would probably give Facebook’s Algorithms away – but of the four ads above, three are relevant to me.

So, it’s not all doom and gloom – at least not yet. That said, I’m not an Apple user so try this yourself.

Some changes last forever…

As a little bit of further reading (or watching) here’s a video that came up as a suggestion on YouTube last night. It’s Apple launching a product that would “change the phone forever”… yeah right? It was a bold statement and if it didn’t have Steve Jobs in the video I’d say it was a recently-made spoof…. but it was real and that bold statement turned out to be so very true.

So, I guess the message in this is “have a bit of faith in Apple” and Facebook, and Google, the tech giants, that targeted advertising may change forever, but won’t go away.