How Face­book ads tar­get you

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

NEW YORK -- If you want to tai­lor a Face­book ad to a sin­gle user out of its uni­verse of 2.2 bil­lion, you could.

Try­ing to pitch your bou­tique bed and break­fast to a 44-year-old "trendy mom" who lives in Seat­tle, leans con­ser­va­tive and is cur­rently trav­el­ing in the Toronto area but hasn't booked a ho­tel for the night yet? Go right ahead. In­ter­ested in mail-or­der­ing pet treats to a 32-year-old cat owner in Madi­son, Wis­con­sin who en­joys Ja­panese food, doesn't like pizza and has an an­niver­sary com­ing up in the next two months? Not a prob­lem.

Tar­get­ing ads, it turns out, is al­most in­fin­itely cus­tom­iz­a­ble — some­times in sur­pris­ing ways. The ads you might see can be tai­lored to you down to the most gran­u­lar de­tails — not just where you live and what web­sites you vis­ited re­cently, but whether you've got­ten en­gaged in the past six months, are in­ter­ested in or­ganic food or share char­ac­ter­is­tics with peo­ple who have re­cently bought a BMW, even if you've never ex­pressed in­ter­est in do­ing so your­self.

Face­book made $40 bil­lion in ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue last year, sec­ond only to Google when it comes to its share of the global dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing mar­ket. Even with a re­cent de­ci­sion to stop work­ing with out­side data bro­kers to help ad­ver­tis­ers tar­get ads based on things like off­line pur­chases or credit his­tory, this num­ber is ex­pected to grow sharply this year.

Here are some ways ad­ver­tis­ers can tar­get you through Face­book:

Mon­i­tor­ing your Face­book ac­tiv­ity

By now, you've prob­a­bly gath­ered that Face­book uses things like your in­ter­est, age and other de­mo­graphic and geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion to help ad­ver­tis­ers reach you. Then there's the stuff your friends do and like — the idea be­ing that it's a good in­di­ca­tor for what you might do and like. So, if you have a friend who has liked the New Yorker's Face­book page, you might see ads for the mag­a­zine on your Face­book feed.

But that's just the tip of the ice­berg. Face­book and ad­ver­tis­ers can also in­fer stuff about you based on things you share will­ingly. For ex­am­ple, Face­book cat­e­go­rizes users into an "eth­nic affin­ity" based on what it thinks might be their eth­nic­ity or eth­nic in­flu­ence. It might guess this through TV shows or mu­sic you've liked. Of­ten, Face­book is wrong — and while it's pos­si­ble to re­move it, you can't change it. There is also no "eth­nic affin­ity" op­tion for whites.

While there are plenty of good rea­sons ad­ver­tis­ers may want to tar­get peo­ple of a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic­ity, this be­came a prob­lem for Face­book in 2016, when ProPublica found that it let ad­ver­tis­ers ex­clude spe­cific eth­nic groups from see­ing their ads. When it comes to hous­ing and em­ploy­ment ads, this is il­le­gal.

In late 2017, Face­book said it was tem­po­rar­ily block­ing ad­ver­tis­ers' abil­ity to tar­get based on eth­nic affin­ity, along with other things such as re­li­gious or LGBT affin­ity. Ad­ver­tis­ers can still tar­get those groups — just not ex­clude them. Face­book, which said it is con­duct­ing an au­dit of how the fea­ture can be mis­used, did not say when it would lift the block.

While some ad­ver­tis­ers want to reach large swaths of peo­ple, oth­ers like more spe­cific tar­get­ing. As Face­book ex­plains in a guide for ad­ver­tis­ers, it's pos­si­ble to re­fine an ad's au­di­ence on things like what peo­ple post on their time­lines, apps they use, ads they click, de­mo­graph­ics such as age, gen­der and lo­ca­tion, and even the mo­bile de­vice they use or their net­work con­nec­tion. Based on this in­for­ma­tion, ad­ver­tis­ers can ei­ther in­clude or ex­clude cat­e­gories such as home­own­ers, "trendy moms," peo­ple who moved re­cently, con­ser­va­tives, or peo­ple in­ter­ested in cook­ing, for ex­am­ple.

That said, Face­book warns ad­ver­tis­ers not to nar­row their au­di­ence too much by be­ing overly spe­cific, which can make the ads less ef­fec­tive — since fewer peo­ple will see them.

Fol­low­ing you off Face­book

An ad of­fer­ing called "cus­tom au­di­ences" lets ad­ver­tis­ers tar­get any­one who has al­ready bought stuff from them or has vis­ited their web­sites. They can also tar­get any­one who has shared an email ad­dress or down­loaded their app. So, if you use Net­flix, you may see an ad on Face­book for a new TV show that might in­ter­est you. Or, if you gave your email ad­dress when you bought a pair of slip­pers from Land's End, you might get an ad for an up­com­ing slip­per sale, since Face­book has your email ad­dress too.

Then there are "looka­like au­di­ences." These are peo­ple who are sim­i­lar to a busi­ness's ex­ist­ing cus­tomer base, but are not cus­tomers them­selves. This can help ad­ver­tis­ers reach peo­ple in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, for ex­am­ple. Ad­ver­tis­ers can use this tool by first up­load­ing their cus­tomers' data through the "cus­tom au­di­ences" fea­ture. Then, Face­book's al­go­rithms look for peo­ple sim­i­lar to them. In ad­di­tion, ad­ver­tis­ers can also in­stall a Face­book "pixel" on their site, a piece of code that tracks what peo­ple do off of Face­book.

Dy­namic ads

A new type of ad Face­book launched re­cently, this lets busi­nesses tar­get peo­ple who have al­ready shown in­ter­est in them. It uses "re­tar­get­ing" — that some­times-an­noy­ing way that a hand­bag you looked on a web­site can fol­low you around the in­ter­net re­gard­less of whether you want to buy it. Dy­namic ads, though, go a step fur­ther, and know if you were just brows­ing or if you put that hand­bag in your on­line shop­ping cart, and may nudge you with a 10 per­cent of coupon.

As Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Sh­eryl Sand­berg ex­plained in a re­cent earn­ings call, dy­namic ads let Hol­i­day Inn tar­get peo­ple who searched for ho­tels on its web­site but hadn't yet booked. The ads these Face­book users saw had a video per­son­al­ized to the dates and places they searched for. The re­sult: the ho­tel chain got three times the re­turn on what it spent on these ads than on their pre­vi­ous ad cam­paigns, ac­cord­ing to Sand­berg. (AP)

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