Meta has announced that audience targeting changes are coming to Facebook ad campaigns. In response to industry pressure, Facebook parent brand Meta is holding up to its earlier promise and will scale back advertiser targeting settings. This is also indicative of a broader trend.
On one hand, a high degree of targeting precision supports creating highly personalized experiences, which allow for relevant and valuable user interaction. At the same time, there is rising sensitivity when people are identified based on their affiliation to social causes, health conditions, or demographic characteristics. Having taken this into account, Facebook is thus limiting advertising options to no longer allow targeting based on these sensitive parameters.
What’s Changing In Facebook Ads Targeting
Starting on January 19, Facebook will remove targeting options in four main categories along with niche segments that are rarely used.
- Health causes (e.g. breast cancer awareness).
- Sexual orientation (e.g. LGBT).
- Religious practices and groups (e.g. Catholic Church ).
- Political beliefs, social issues, causes, organizations, or figures (e.g. political party or political candidate).
Meta’s update on the upcoming changes mentions that campaigns can keep delivering to impacted audience targets into late March 2022.
Additionally, the changes will not fully propagate through the Meta ecosystem.
For ad sets created prior to January 19, it will be possible for you to make campaign-level edits, such as budget amounts or campaign names, without impacting targeting until March 17.
However, edits at the ad set level will trigger audience changes. Similarly, if an ad set is paused prior to March 17, when it’s reactivated, the new targeting changes will kick in.
After March 17, it will no longer be possible to edit prior campaigns that leverage deprecated targeting settings. For it to be possible to make changes at the campaign, ad set or ad level, you might need to revise the detailed targeting settings before March 17.
Will There Be Any Broader Impact For Social Advertisers?
It will be interesting to see if other social media platforms will follow suit and also adjust their targeting capabilities. So far, Meta has seen more pressure than other platforms.
Without reviewing and potentially also reducing their targeting granularity across sensitive criteria, other social platforms risk drawing the same scrutiny as has been directed at Facebook. You might expect that in the near future, they too will scale back their targeting away from personal characteristics. Meta has not indicated whether it envisions further targeting adjustments or if this will be the only tweak in the foreseeable future. Still, you can take comfort that Meta is responding to the mounting vocal feedback and hope that it will continue to take note of further developments.
While this has come up first in the context of social media, programmatic and search advertising providers should also be careful. Historically, these vehicles have made great use of data that allows a high level of targeting precision and provides granular insights using demographic, socioeconomic, and other parameters. If these players do not directly address the sensitivity of granular ad targeting and reporting in light of the above developments, they may be forced to (as soon as implications from cookie deprecation gain momentum).