This Is How Macy’s Will Target Its Facebook and Instagram Ads for the Holidays

Social data is full of potential

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In terms of marketing, the holidays are equivalent to the Super Bowl for Macy's. And with more advertising and shopping going digital, the department store has a slew of sophisticated tools up its sleeve this year, particularly on Facebook and Instagram.

Macy's is one of a handful of brands synching up ads on the two platforms after they essentially merged ad products and data to offer new targeting options.

Macy's is running promos all day Wednesday via Instagram's 3-month-old offering called Marquee, a takeover-style ad unit that lets brands utilize three clips and hit a large audience. Macy's declined to say how much the holiday campaign costs, but the ads are priced at a premium and can't be bought through Instagram's recently launched API software platform. 

"You can tell a piece of the story and then target that customer who engaged with that first ad unit with another element of the story later in the day," said Serena Potter, gvp of digital media strategy at Macy's. "We're able to understand the customer and the audience that engages with our ads within Instagram and retarget them within Facebook."

Macy's is splitting up a three-minute holiday film into 30-second and 15-second videos. Follow-up ads on Facebook will then promote the full three-minute commercial targeted at users who saw the Instagram promos.

The retailer will also specifically target ads at people who are engaging with Black Friday and Cyber Monday content—a feature the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company unveiled last week.

Potter said this year's three-minute spot is longer than the typical videos Macy's creates, so short Instagram ads that tell a snippet of the story are meant to hook people and get them to watch the full piece later on Facebook.

"If they're a little confused and curious, that's great because it's driving them to the three-minute spot," she said.

Here is the Instagram creative and the full three-minute version:

Macy's is also testing Facebook's full-screen mobile ads, Canvas, for e-commerce.

The Canvas ad format is like a mini shopping hub Macy's will use to make its retargeted campaigns (also called dynamic ads) more interactive.

Tapping on an ad in the news feed pulls up a landing page with additional information and similar products. A second clickthrough takes users to, where they can buy the item.

In addition to targeting the ads at people who have looked at specific items online, Canvas is a way for people to discover new products they may not know about.

"It gives you that full shopping funnel in one ad unit," Potter said. "Retargeting within Facebook is tremendous and resonates with the customer, but you also want to help the customer discover things that they didn't look at. It's a balance of discovering inspiration and intelligent, relevant, retargeting that will deliver the best results."

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.