On January 19, 2022 Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, began removing the audience targeting options globally for Facebook ads along with their other platforms – Messenger apps, Instagram, and Meta’s “audience network.” This follows the great magnitude of social, societal, and industry pressures from the litany of complaints facing them in the wake of the infamous privacy breach scandals and ad targeting abuse controversy.
Their biggest issues were put on blast in October 2021, in the “Facebook Papers,” a trove of hundreds of internal company documents. To minimize the fallout, the company has since pursued repair methods in the form of company-wide changes.
The change we will explore in this article is also representative of a broader trend in advertising: the balance between personalized ads and ads that may be a bit too customized, or a bit too emotion-provoking.
While companies are moving towards more personally customized advertisement, they are simultaneously moving away from affiliation to sensitive topics such as:
Policy makers and critics have scrutinized the company for having advertisements that are emotionally triggering. While customers scroll through Facebook looking for entertainment, family/friend updates, and maybe even news updates, they have been met with strong emotion-evoking advertisements that really hit a nerve. According to Meta, that ends this year.
They want their users to have an easier time finding organizations, companies, and products that cater to their needs while steering away from ads that may upset or offend them. Taking these trends into account, Meta is limiting Facebook's advertising to not include such parameters. Examples are:
They are also taking to get rid of targeting options that have not been extensively utilized and those which are redundant, as they have done in previous updates. They’ve listened and taken into consideration the feedback from civil rights experts, policy makers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preserving privacy expectations while delivering personalized ads.
This change is monumental in that it may serve to entirely re-brand the social media platform. In the past, the freedom granted to advertisers allowed users to be discriminated against or to be spammed with unwanted messages. As a result, Facebook carried the connotation of an online space that can be emotionally distressing for its users.
“We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups.” - Graham Mudd, VP of Product Marketing for Meta
But, 2022 may see that change entirely.
You probably experienced a change in Graph API for all versions on January 19, 2022. In most cases, you will be able to continue delivering targeted campaigns until March 17, 2022.
But, let’s address the real elephant in the room: will this lose you money? Also, how will this impact your ad campaign and will have to turn to other, more expensive mediums of delivering your ads such as broadcast television. However, Meta feels confident in their ability to cater to both their users and the organizations and nonprofits relying on Facebook for traction.
Mudd responded to concerned parties saying, “Like many of our decisions, this was not a simple choice and required a balance of competing interests where there was advocacy in both directions.” He added that some of the ad changes had been under discussion since 2016.
To best prepare for this change, Meta has a few recommendations on how you proceed with your ad campaigns up until March 17th and theron after. They recommend obtaining the list of ad set IDs targeted at affected objects by way of the Deprecated targeting terms API. Once you’ve done this, you can compare the specifications of the ad sets targeting to the targeting status API to determine which Object IDs in the set will cause a problem. Once you’ve distinguished problematic object IDs, you will be able to search for them in your ad campaign and upon finding any, there may be a pause in delivery.
To ensure that your ads are delivered as you planned, it may be in your best interest to avoid any new edits. That being said, it will be possible for you to make edits at the campaign level - campaign naming, spending limit - without impacting targeting up until March 17. Keep in mind: some changes such as those to placements or targeting options, will likely trigger audience changes. Likewise, if an ad set is paused before March 17, new targeting changes will come into effect with reactivation.
After March 17, you will no longer have the option of editing former ad campaigns which leverage deprecated targeting methods. Plan to revise the detailed targeting settings - at the campaign, ad set, or ad level prior to March 17 to avoid having terms automatically removed or the ad set paused. Big picture here: mark your calendar for March 17th!
If you attempt to use an embargoed targeting option after March 17th, you will be returned with an error message that looks something like this:
“Error code 100, sub code 18157520: Cannot Use Invalid Detailed Targeting Options: Some of Your Detailed Targeting Options Have Been Removed: This ad set includes detailed targeting options that are either no longer available or unavailable when excluding people from an audience. You may need to remove items from your ad set or confirm the changes to turn it back on.”
It will be intriguing to watch how other social media platforms respond to Meta leaning into the needs of their users. They can either follow suit or remain indifferent. While competitors may want to stay on top of emerging trends, Meta experiences more pressure than most. Facebook in particular has received more backlash than any other social media platform in the past decade, a precursor to their openness to transformation.
However, other social platforms risk enduring the same scrutiny as Meta if they don’t re-evaluate their advertisement targeting strategy. As a result, we may see platforms such as Twitter or even Google scaling back on their targeted ads away from sensitive topics. Despite no other announcements from Meta on further changes, it is comforting to note that they are prioritizing the needs of their audience