Over the past two weeks, Facebook has introduced new ad targeting restrictions that include the cut-off of access to third party data and the removal of potential reach estimates for Custom Audiences. The changes come in response to the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal involving user data exploitation, as well as the detection of a platform vulnerability that could allow the inference of users’ personal attributes.
Previously, Facebook ad buyers were able to supplement information obtained from users themselves (such as page likes) and advertisers (such as a user’s loyalty program membership) with third-party data segments supplied by companies such as Acxiom, Oracle, and Experian. Now that this is no longer an option, marketers will have to get creative with first-party data or obtain the information they were receiving from third-party sources directly from providers, a much less time-and-cost-efficient process. Facebook has confirmed that this is a permanent change.
The removal of potential reach estimates will also impose challenges on advertisers who used the tool to gain a better sense of an ad’s scope before its official placement, but it is possible the estimates will be reinstated once a fix has been developed.
A 22% drop in Facebook stocks since the beginning of the month and a trending #DeleteFacebook hashtag could imply a decline in the platform’s user base and popularity. A recent survey by investment firm Raymond Jones also showed that survey participants were split over whether they would use the platform less in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica news, with 48% saying they would not change their usage habits, 45% saying they would use somewhat less or significantly less, and 8% saying they would stop using Facebook altogether.
Facebook remains the second largest source (after Google Search) of digital marketing driven customers for many Level clients, and it’s unlikely that the platform’s recent challenges change that. As of this writing, core staples of Level’s Facebook customer generation strategies, like first-party data targeting and website retargeting, remain intact. Level will continue its data-driven approach to Facebook ad buying, and proactively adjust budgets and expectations as consumer behavior changes.
Level also points to recent developments as an example of why it’s best to deploy an integrated, multi-channel digital advertising strategy rather than to rely heavily on one channel.
“Events like this reinforce the importance of Level’s portfolio approach to digital media buying,” says Patrick Van Gorder, Senior Vice President. “Though platform confidence, usage, and efficacy change over time, Level deploys a balanced mix of social, display, search, and other rich media campaigns to make sure that we are always able to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time for the right price.”