From 19 January 2022, Facebook will be removing detailed targeting options relating to culturally or politically polarising topics such as health, political affiliation, race or ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. All the targeting options Facebook will remove are based on how users interact with content on the platform, rather than any personal attributes or physical characteristics.
Facebook generally prefers hyper-personalisation of ads compared to a broader approach. According to Facebook’s VP of Product Marketing & Ads Graham Mudd, “We strongly believe that the best advertising experiences are personalised. They enable people to discover products and services from small businesses that may not have the ability to market them on broadcast television or other forms of media.”
So, why is Facebook making the change to limit more specific targeting? Largely, discrimination. In their 9 November announcement, Facebook acknowledged that they received advice from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on mitigating this abuse of available targeting options.
“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,” Mudd said. “We routinely review, update and remove targeting options to simplify our ads system, provide more value for advertisers and people, and reduce the potential for abuse.”
Facebook hopes that removing the most sensitive Philippines Photo Editor ad targeting options will minimise this abuse and disincentivise discrimination. However, Facebook has also advised that some companies (specifically non-profits and political advocacy groups) have been resistant to the change as their revenue streams are heavily reliant on these existing targeting options.
How Facebook’s Targeting Changes Will Affect Marketers
While these sensitive categories will be removed from Facebook’s targeting options, the core function of detailed targeting remains intact. Tens of thousands of categories are still available to companies and marketers to target their niche audience.
Businesses and non-profits that operate within these fields can still reach their target audience with “Engagement Custom Audiences,” targeting users who have liked their page or watched their videos—an indirect but not insignificant way to reach similar people as before.
How Facebook’s Targeting Changes Will Affect Users
For regular Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users, many detailed targeting categories will remain. Users will still see ads targeted to them as usual. Facebook is hoping this change will continue to deliver these targeted ads, but with less abuse of the system resulting in discrimination or spamming of users.