Navigating the World of Facebook Ad Targeting Post Cambridge Analytica and How You Can Work Around It

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It changed the way Americans felt about Facebook. It’s the Cambridge Analytical Scandal, and it’s making a bit of a mess in the digital marketing space. Facebook ads were an advertising dream! The targeting options were immense, and the results were real. You could market directly to your target demographic and convert them within minutes. And then this scandal had to come along and muck things up (Though we are very, very serious and somber about what happened–we want to assure you of that. Privacy is vital.). Let’s break this scandal down and see how it’s affecting marketing and advertising in the digital world.


What is the Cambridge Analytica Scandal?

Cambridge Analytica is a data firm that acquired tens of millions of Facebook users’ information to create psychological profiles of voters, which were then sold to political campaigns. The firm is majority-owned by right-wing donor Robert Mercer and former Trump aide, Steve Bannon, who was a founder and sat on the board while the profiles were allegedly being used. The company has sold these profiles, based on stolen information, to politicians in the US and abroad to influence voters and win campaigns. In fact, Cambridge claims credit for Trump’s win in 2016.


How the Scandal Changed Facebook Ads

For marketing professionals and firms, this breach has altered our thoughts on Facebook and Zuckerberg’s mea culpas. As a result, new policies are changing the game. Anticipating a change, many large firms already pulled advertising as people decide to delete Facebook. Facebook has now put more safeguards in place to protect users that may limit the previously infinite reach marketers had.

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen so far is new restrictions on custom audience campaigns. Facebook now requires advertisers to certify they have user consent before launching. Another was the end of the “Partner Categories” program which allowed marketers to pair a user’s offline activities with their Facebook profile. This information included things such as purchase history or homeownership. In short, Facebook is erring on the side of caution with user information and marketers will need to adjust to the new lay of the land.


Techniques to Reach Your Audience in the Face of This Change

In talking to industry experts and adding our own insights, we’ve come up with a few ways to deal with this change. First, focus on ads that have a Facebook Conversion or Lead Generation Event and use a wider audience than before. While this may lack the laser-focused approach available with Partner Categories, advertising to a wider range may open up a new market. Let Facebook optimize your ad using that information.

Next, be vigilant about keyword research prior to a campaign as Facebook seems to be adding new options frequently. Use hashtag engines and searches to find the most popular keywords to improve your chances of being found by users. Third, use website retargeting and video view engagement retargeting to advertise to your warm audience. You know what works and what these clients want to see so give it to them. It will remind them of your products and services and suggest a purchase in the near future.


Now is the time to be more flexible and creative in your approach to Facebook’s targeted ads. Look at new platforms for untapped opportunities, and always invest the time to craft catchy, can’t-get-in-out-of-my-head copy that converts. If you need help adjusting your marketing strategy, give Boldthink a jingle or send us an email. We’ll be happy to help you refine your digital marketing strategy.