Facebook Will Soon Let Brands Target Ads at Entire Families or Specific People Within Households

New feature comes just in time for the holiday planning season

Ads can be aimed at people who influence purchasing decisions or those actually doing the buying. Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

While brands have been buying ads for niche audiences on Facebook for years, they’ll soon be able to target ads down to the specific household.

Just in time for the holiday-planning season, the social network is introducing a new household audience feature that will let brands direct ads to entire families or to specific people within a household. The tool, which the company announced today, could help aim ads at people who influence purchasing decisions and other ads to the people making the actual purchases.

Here’s how it works: Brands can select a source audience—a custom audience uploaded to Facebook that represents their customers based on an email list, for instance—and then turn on the household audience feature to reach not just the person they’re targeting, but also other people in the same household.

“What we want to do basically is leverage the power of our network to enable that kind of influencing or to support that kind of influencing across the family,” Graham Mudd, Facebook’s product marketing director, said this morning at a press event in New York.

The feature is yet another way Facebook plans to siphon advertising dollars away from television networks, which have historically been how you show the same ads to the same household at the same time. Facebook executives said they’ll be able to identify members of the same household based on signals, such as their familial relationships on Facebook, but also based on the frequency of shared check-ins or where they access the internet.

According to Mudd, there are three use cases for how brands might want to target household audiences. In one instance, he said, a travel brand might want to target ads at the person paying for a trip—flights, hotels, etc.—but the marketer might also want to make sure the people voting on the destination also see the ads. For gifting, if one person might benefit from getting something from a certain retailer, then the ads might be directed at people in the household likely to be buying rather than receiving the gift.

The tool might also be used to reduce wasted ad spend. For example, if someone has already bought a household-specific product or service—a Netflix subscription, an Airbnb reservation—then based on the customer database, the marketer and Facebook know to stop showing ads to that household.

Along with the added targeting, Facebook is adding additional measurement capabilities. The updates will appear in the Ads Reporting dashboard and show how campaigns perform in terms of driving results across members of a household. Metrics will include how many households the advertising reaches, along with the frequency at which they were reached. (It’ll also potentially show how an ad shown to one person affected a purchase made by someone else.)

Mudd shared an example of how this might work around the holidays: Because he has purchased products from Sonos, he’s in the brand’s customer database. So, if his wife wants to get him a gift, Sonos might try influence Mudd’s wife and their kids with ads as they’re shopping for their dad.

“You can image that if you’re a parent with kids, while you might not be personally interested in the toys that your kids are looking for for the holiday, you might find it useful to know where that hot toy is and where it’s in stock,” Mudd said.

The updated audience targeting comes as Facebook also introduced video capabilities for its Dynamic Ads product, which will allow advertisers to move beyond the static images that have only been allowed in the past. (According to Facebook, 30 percent of mobile shoppers prefer to discover products through video.)

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.