Facebook Slices, Dices Consumers to Refine Ad Targeting

Facebook added another level of targeting to its advertising strategy Wednesday with the introduction of partner categories, a self-service feature that uses data collected from other channels to deliver ads on the social network. Partner categories will let advertisers target Facebook users based on browsing and purchase history, occupation, a wide range of specific interests, and location.

Thanks to its agreements with Big Data providers including Acxiom, Epsilon and Dialogix, ads on Facebook should become more relevant, if not personal. Advertisers and agencies can now drill down into more than 500 groups to target an audience for their ads.

The Facebook Studio blog lists several examples of partner categories in action. For example, a “cereal buyer” category is broken down into those who purchase children’s cereals, high fiber offerings and hot cereals. Subcategories help advertisers and agencies try to reach the right consumer.

Facebook is “providing more science into the marketing channels, so that advertisers and marketers can reach their intended audience,” Dana Hayes Jr., Acxiom global vice president of partner development, told the E-Commerce Times. “When you have more science, there is no unknown.”

Partners in Advertising

“To date, advertisers have been able to show ads to people based on their expressed interests on Facebook,” Eric Stein, executive vice president of online solutions at Epsilon told the E-Commerce Times. “Now, with partner categories, advertisers can show ads to people based on the interests they have expressed and actions they have taken off of Facebook.”

Epsilon, as well as other third party companies named in the deal, provides pre-defined audiences which Facebook has divided into 500 groups so advertisers can zero in to select the best group for their product or service.

Data provided by Epsilon and other companies matches interests, aspirations and actions with users on their Facebook profile.

“It’s not anything new. We’ve been working on building out our publisher ecosystem for years now,” said Jeff Standridge, vice president of global partner development at Acxiom. The company has about 30 or 40 publishers on its roster.

“Marketers can use categories to leverage offline third party data to reach their customers and prospective customers on Facebook with highly relevant information that appeals to their interests, profession and buying habits,” said Stein.

Advertisers looking to tie ad campaigns across channels — including offline media such as TV or print — can use partner profiles to bring those ads online.

“Marketers are going to continue to spend money on mobile, online and TV. With the Acxiom system, they can do campaigns that are synchronized,” said Michael Gorman, vice president of strategy, products and solutions at Acxiom. “[Marketers] can buy TV ads through Cablevision, and target individuals on Facebook at the same time. It’s applying direct marketing principles across multiple channels.”

Targeted Ads for a Targeted Facebook

“Partner categories is definitely something to get excited about, specifically regarding the varied insights gathered via transactional data, survey info and on/offline behaviors,” said Dave Rollo, chief strategy officer at BLiNQ Media. “These new data sets further validate and support Facebook’s broad category, topic and interest data.”

“We realize we’re fighting against a lot of noise,” Bryan Caplan, chief branding officer at BJC Branding told the E-Commerce Times.

For example, BJC Branding client CapeJava sells Keurig K-Cups and coffee brewers in Cape Cod. “We’ve been taking out a lot of ads when it comes to targeting people who like coffee,” Caplan said.

The issue for Caplan’s agency? Not all coffee drinkers are alike. “When someone likes coffee, they might be a coffee snob,” he explained. Partner profiles helps agencies determine whether someone buys beans and relishes the aroma that comes from brewing a full pot of mountain roast, or someone who just likes the convenience of a single-mug brew.

Targeting ads to this degree makes ads more relevant for both the advertiser and the Facebook user. “For a marketer, this has broadened the spectrum,” Caplan said.

Targeting Privacy

Facebook’s Big Data partners collect information such as browsing history and direct mail. Data on online and offline purchases also make up the profiles. Customer loyalty programs are often the source of offline data, such as in-store purchases.

“People are using shopping carts, their grocery cards and loyalty cards, but they’re getting benefits,” said Caplan.

Facebook was quick to address any privacy concerns in February when it introduced custom audiences. Partner categories is the next step in this advertising offering. Under the deal, none of the data companies will collect information from Facebook. All companies involved, including Acxiom, Epsilon and Datalogix, adhere to strict privacy policies.

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