Facebook Will Let Brands Target Users With Offline Third-Party Data

Expansion of Custom Audiences program includes partners Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon, BlueKai

Last summer Facebook began letting marketers target ads to their existing customers through Custom Audiences. That program has been limited to Facebook users for whom a brand has an email address or phone number that Facebook could match with their Facebook accounts. Now the social network is expanding that capability to include consumer lists from third-party data providers Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon and BlueKai.

There are two ways the expansion of Custom Audiences will work. An advertiser already working with one of the four data partners to target ads outside of Facebook will now be able to do so on Facebook. That means an auto dealership that uses Datalogix data to create audience segments of potential car buyers can now also find those prospective customers on Facebook.

As for brands that don't already work with these data brokers, over the next couple of weeks Facebook will extend a beta program to its top U.S. managed clients; they'll be able to take advantage of the data providers’ predefined audience segments, explained a Facebook spokesperson. That means, for example, a hotel advertiser who works directly with Facebook but isn’t necessarily working with one of the new data partners can now start tapping into segmented audience data on people looking to travel to Miami—allowing them to market to such folks on Facebook. 

In fact, these data providers are provide all sorts of powerfulinformation on Web users that can be used for ad targeting purposes. Things like, identifying people who have configured a car on Ford’s website—and bucket those people into a group dubbed “auto intenders” because they’ve demonstrated they’re deep into the consideration stages of buying a car. Datalogix, for one, is able to track retail shoppers’ purchase history based on their loyalty card information and can create audience buckets of people who buy a lot of diapers and could be categorized as “new parents.” Facebook actually partnered with Datalogix last year to attribute sales to ads people had seen on Facebook 

As Adweek reported last week, the addition of third-party audience data to be used for ad targeting is a tricky proposition, but the Facebook spokesperson said the company has taken measures to keep the program above board. Facebook users will be able to opt out of the third-party data targeting through Facebook’s Help Center as well as by hovering over an ad displayed according to the third party data to surface the opt-out option.

As with the original Custom Audiences capability, Facebook and its data provider partners aren’t exchanging any personal data. Essentially, Facebook is promising to create a wall between the personal data an Epsilon might have and the personal data Facebook has; an advertiser can target a specific user using both data sets, but Facebook and Epsilon won't exchange any information on that particular individual.

The partners have also agreed to not append any data and to not create behavioral profiles based on the program, the spokesperson said.

Plus, Facebook had informed regulators of its plans prior to today's announcement and was able to determine the third-party data targeting is in full compliance with what Facebook has agreed to with the regulators after the company's privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission last summer, the spokesperson said.