Facebook is making big changes to the way that audiences can be targeted on the platform; announcing that they will be shutting down Partner Categories. This comes as part of the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Although partner categories were not directly involved in this most recent controversy, it is easy to see why Facebook may want to distance itself from this kind of deep-targeting and the negative press it is likely to attract. Partner Categories hasn’t yet become a focus of scrutiny, however, it’s a targeting capability which could easily be described as a little “big brother”-esque.
Quite simply, Partner Categories is targeting information that Facebook has obtained from third party big data companies. These partners have information on people based on their activities away from Facebook. For example: for a charity wanting to get more people signed up to monthly direct debit donations, advertisers on Facebook would be able to target people who already make regular charitable donations.
In the UK the information for Partner Categories is sourced from Acxiom, Experian, and Oracle Data Cloud (formerly DLX). Examples of targeting options are as follows:
Credit union member
Retail purchase behaviour
Likely to move home
Here’s how it works…
Firstly, data mining companies collect data from independent websites, and then this information is then sold on to Facebook. Facebook matches the data up to specific users. Advertisers can then target these users based on that activity.
While Facebook doesn’t cite this as a reason for removal, there is a strong chance that they are taking this step to avoid people feeling like their privacy is being invaded. While the use of this data is not unique to Facebook advertising, it would likely come under scrutiny given the current hostile environment surrounding data.
As these aren’t particularly innovative or new, it’s probably an easy decision for Facebook to remove these now before they become a new PR headache.
It is worth taking into account that this not only impacts those using Partner Categories through Ads Manager, but also those advertisers who work directly with Ad Reps at Facebook to get access to Data Logix targeting options.
Partner Categories are being phased out over the next six months, so there is no need for a knee jerk reaction to these changes. However, it is important for advertisers to start hunting out new ways of targeting these audiences: so start experimenting now, get creative and stay ahead of the curve!