Facebook’s Partner Categories Enable Brands To Target Ads To Users Based On Activity Across Web

By David Cohen 

Facebook’s ad-targeting capabilities took a giant step forward with Wednesday’s launch of partner categories, which allow brands on the social network to show ads to users based not only on their Facebook activity, but their activity across the Web, via both desktop and mobile, and even their offline purchases and tendencies.

Partner categories will be available to advertisers in the U.S. via power editor and the ads application-programming interface starting Wednesday.

As is the case with similar targeted advertising initiatives by Facebook, users’ personal information is not shared between Facebook, third parties, and advertisers. Partner categories tap data from third parties including Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon.

In a post on the Facebook Studio blog announcing the availability of partner categories, the social network gave the example that local car dealerships can use the feature to target users who live near them and have indicated that they are shopping for new vehicles, and Facebook added that more than 500 unique groups are available at launch, and that partner categories can be combined with its other ad-targeting options.

Facebook said in the Facebook Studio blog post:

Partner categories work the same way all targeting on Facebook works. The advertiser only knows the size of the audience and can’t access any information about individuals included in a category.

At launch, partner categories includes more than 500 unique groups. In addition, partner categories works with other Facebook targeting options, so advertisers can further refine their campaigns to reach only the right people. Ads that are well-targeted benefit the advertisers who run them by driving higher return on investment and are a better experience for people who see more relevant ads.

Facebook also offered more details on the privacy aspects of partner categories in a note on the Facebook and Privacy page:

As part of working with Facebook, we’ve set up these partnerships in a way that people who use Facebook can understand how this advertising works and have the ability to control it. Specifically, our partners have committed to take the following steps to increase transparency and control:

Inline transparency: When you see a Facebook ad, you can click the drop-down menu and then choose “about this Ad.” This will bring you to a page that identifies the company that was responsible for including you in the audience for the ad — whether that company is Facebook or one of our partners. We also provide a centralized list on our own site of the third parties we work with to help us with advertising and with other efforts, such as measuring the effectiveness of Facebook ads. See here: https://www.facebook.com/help/133547810119620/

Comprehensive control: Within the drop-down box associated with an ad, you can ask Facebook not to show you that ad again, or not to show you any ads from that partner. Partners also have agreed to provide on their “about this ad” pages a comprehensive opt-out of future targeting by that company, not only on one website, but across the Web.

Enhanced disclosures: Our partners have agreed to expand their public knowledge centers so that anyone can learn how they collect and use information. This includes clearly explaining what types of information they collect and what their policies are relating to the sharing of that information.

Data-access tools: Finally, each of our partners is working to develop tools that will help people see audience segment information that the partner has associated with them, and to exercise control over that data. These tools are new to the industry, and we hope they’ll meaningfully improve the transparency people have into how information is used to help them see relevant ads. We look forward to working with our partners to make these tools available in the coming months.

Facebook Director of Global Marketing Solutions, Global Data and Audience Partnerships Yvette Lui discussed the social network’s third-party partners in the partner categories effort:

Partnering with Acxiom gives marketers a more accurate and effective way to reach the right groups of real people, which makes for a better ads experience on our platform. Targeting features like partner categories and custom audiences help make the ads people see on Facebook more relevant to their interests.

Datalogix has proven to be a true innovator and critical partner to Facebook as we seek to provide greater value to marketers and more relevant ads to people.

Our ultimate goal is to make the ads people see on Facebook as relevant as the information they see from their friends. Our partnership with Epsilon gives marketers a more accurate and effective way to reach the right groups of real people, which makes for a better ad experience.

Acxiom Global Vice President of Partner Development Dana Hayes Jr. added:

Partner categories and custom audiences help make the ads people see on Facebook more relevant to their interests. Acxiom data, responsibly used in connection with Facebook’s extensive network, creates more effective marketing practices and compelling consumer experiences.

And Epsilon Executive VP of Online Solutions Eric Stein said:

There is a tremendous opportunity for marketers to leverage offline data to reach their customers and prospective customers where and when they are deeply engaged. With the right data and insights, marketers can build engagement and share valuable, relevant offers and information. We’ve worked across multiple brands and have used the robust targeting of our partnership to drive a greater than 30 percent average return on investment so far. Epsilon understands data and how to make insights actionable to drive meaningful conversations with customers both online and offline. Our partnership with Facebook will help marketers achieve strong results and uncover return on their marketing investment.