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The Latest Changes to Facebook’s Ad Targeting Policies

A lot has happened since news broke out earlier this year about Facebook’s involvement in a data breach scandal, in which Cambridge Analytica collected the ‘personally identifiable information’ of up to 87 million Facebook users. Combined with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly known as GDPR, some big (targeting) changes have been announced. Let us run you through a chronological summary of the changes Facebook has applied to its ad targeting policies over the past year.

6 min read

Targeting Exclusions

In December 2017, Facebook revealed that it had been alerted to an issue in its ads creation process where advertisers could potentially create ads that may violate their ads policies.

Facebook explained that advertisers who run ad campaigns targeted at specific detailed targeting options, such as multicultural affinity, sexual affinity or religion may receive an in-product notification that would require acknowledgement of Facebook’s anti-discrimination policies.

Facebook announced it would be removing the ability to exclude detailed targeting options (multicultural affinity or related terms) during the ads creation. For example, this means that you cannot exclude a certain sexuality or religion from your ad targeting.

Due to these changes, ads may be disapproved by Facebook and display a notification if:

  • Your ads target multicultural affinity segments or related terms, by inclusion.
  • You run ads for housing, employment or credit/finance.

All disapproved ads would then be entered into ad review before the final decision is made.

Reach Estimation Availability

After Facebook spotted a technical issue with reach estimation for Custom Audiences which could potentially allow misuse of the functionality, the social media giant decided to remove the ability to see audience sizes of potential reach estimates for newly created or edited Custom Audiences in Ads Manager and Power Editor.

As of December 22, 2017, the points listed below no longer support targeting specifications that contain the following custom audience objects, offline conversions API and Facebook Analytics:

  • Customer Audiences from a customer file with more than 1 key
  • Data file Customer Audience
  • Offline Conversions Custom Audiences
  • Website and mobile app Custom Audiences if using advanced matching

Targeting Availability for ‘Interested In’

Early February 2018, Facebook made the decision to remove ‘Interested In’ targeting. This applies to all advertisers who currently use, or previously have used ‘Interested in Men’; ‘Interested in Women’; ‘Interested in Men and Women’ or ‘Interested in Unspecified’ as a targeting option.

As an alternative, Facebook recommended advertisers to use ‘Relationship Status’ Interest for targeting instead. At the time, existing campaigns using ‘Interested In’ targeting were allowed to continue running until their end date, however, those targeting options would then no longer be available for ad creation or duplication. Furthermore, editing existing campaigns with ‘Interested In’ targeting was also no longer possible without having the targeting option removed.

API Changes for Partner Categories Depreciation

In March 2018, Facebook announced it would be shutting down Partner Categories from its platform over the ensuing 6 months as well as revealing that that it is going to be more restrictive in the way data can be used in advertising. Facebook created a timeline in which people could see what the future changes would hold and when they would go into effect.

Starting May 11, 2018

EU Partner Categories would no longer be available for campaign creation, editing or duplication. Scheduled campaigns would be allowed to run with these audiences.

After May 24

Campaigns with audiences that included EU Partner Categories would no longer be able to deliver to those audiences.

  • Facebook will automatically remove any campaigns that use EU Partner Categories for inclusion targeting only along with other audiences, with delivery continuing to the other audiences.
  • If a campaign is only using EU Partner Categories without other audiences, or if it is using EU Partner Categories for exclusion targeting, Facebook will automatically pause the campaign. The advertiser will be allowed to resume his or her campaign when the EU Partner Categories have been removed from the targeting specifications.

Starting June 30

This will be the last day to create new or edit existing campaigns using non-EU Partner Categories (e.g. Experian, Quantium, Epsilon etc.) These will be allowed to run until September 30th.

Starting August 15

From this day onwards, all remaining Partner Categories will no longer be available for campaign creation, editing or duplication. However, scheduled campaigns will continue to run with these audiences.

After October 1

All campaigns with audiences that include Partner Categories will officially no longer be able to deliver to those audiences.

  • If a campaign using Partner Categories is using them for inclusion targeting only along with other audiences, Facebook will automatically remove them, and delivery will continue to run to the other audiences.
  • If a campaign is exclusively using Partner Categories without other audiences, of if it is using Partner Categories for exclusion targeting, Facebook will automatically pause your campaign. The advertisers can resume the campaign once again when the EU Partner Categories have been removed from the targeting specifications.

Usage and Sharing of Custom Audiences

It has been announced that starting from July 2, 2018, Facebook will introduce a new upload and sharing flow within the the Ads Manager and the Ads API. This means that all Custom Audiences created from a customer file will be required to go through these new flows starting on the aforementioned date, whether it is through the Ads Manager or the API.

Here’s a list of the changes expected to be made:

  • Terms acceptance & reminders: After July 2, when uploading or creating a Custom Audience, every Business Manager user has to accept Facebook’s updated Custom Audiences Terms as part of the new flow. A notification will be displayed asking users to read the updated terms  when first uploading an audience, and will receive reminders about these terms every 90 days.
  • Sharing Customer Audiences: Business Manager admins will need to initiate and accept an audience sharing relationship & the Custom Audience Terms when establishing the relationship for the very first time.

Once it has been established, a sharing relationship would enable businesses to share audiences with another Business Manager. However, audiences can only be shared in one direction. This means if Business A shares audiences with Business B, Business B will not be able to share audiences back to Business A unless a separate sharing relationship from B to A has been established.

Furthermore, all new shared Custom Audiences, including the ones uploaded by data providers will have to adopt this new sharing process starting from July 2nd.

  • Indication of data origin: When uploading a customer file Custom Audience, the uploader will be required to provide details on the data origin of the customer file, emphasising on whether data was collected directly from users, by partners or a combination of both.
  • “Why am I seeing this?” updates: In order to provide added transparency to the platform’s users, Facebook will begin surfacing additional details around Custom Audiences in the “Why am I seeing this?” module on an ad. On top of the advertiser’s name, Facebook will also show new information around the data origin highlighting if the customer file has been provided by partners, from advertisers or a combination of the two. Finally, Facebook will also show whether a person was matched to the audience by their phone number or email address.

And here you have it! A comprehensive overview of all the changes that have been made, and are expected to be made, concerning ad targeting and the changes of terms and policies. Advertising on Facebook before and after GDPR is about to become a whole new, different ball game, and companies around the world are working hard in order to prove their compliance as quickly and effectively as possible. The team at The Next Ad and Facebook cares deeply about your campaigns, and will work hard to continue updating you on any further changes, while ensuring that these changes won’t have too much of an impact on your social performances.

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