Posted July 8, 2010 9:29 am by with 13 comments

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I’ve never run a Facebook advertising campaign.


Because, based on the crappy ads that are served to me, each time I log in, I have no faith that my ads will be served to those that are actually interested in what I have to offer. Now I know why:

We have designed Facebook to provide relevant and interesting advertising content to you in a way that protects your privacy completely. We never share your personal information with advertisers. We never sell your personal information to anyone. These protections are yours no matter what privacy settings you use; they apply equally to people who share openly with everyone and to people who share with only select friends.

So, that explains it. Facebook protects your privacy–even if you want the whole world to know who you are.

But, is that the best approach?

I’ve often suggested that I’d be willing to share more of my private information, if it would lead to better targeted ads. Not just better targeted ads, but ads that match up so perfectly with my interests, I actually look forward to see them each day. When was the last time you looked forward to seeing an ad on a web page?

I know we’re in this tricky age of trying to determine how far we should go to protect our privacy, but has Facebook gone too far? I mean, it won’t share information with advertisers “no matter what privacy settings you use.” You could tell the whole world that you’re married, have two kids and are trying decide on a family vacation to Six Flags or Disney, but an advertiser can’t deliver you a customized offer for 3 nights at DisneyWorld, no matter what. Sounds kind of crazy to me.

I guess my point is this. Yes, go ahead and protect the privacy of those that want it, but where’s the freedom? If I tell you it’s OK to share what I publicly post to Facebook with advertisers–in order to get better offers from them–what’s wrong with that?

  • So, if Facebook isn’t serving ads based on personal content because of their privacy policy, what ARE they serving ads based on? Also, are the targeting parameters an advertiser enters when creating ads just being completely ignored?

    • They let you target on general demographic areas, but you can’t target to specific users.

      • Joe Jacobs

        Andy – You can target by profile settings (likes) Why would I want to target a specific user?

  • I don’t think that the ads are too bad, you just have to make sure you are choosing the right industry to market

  • Joe Jacobs

    If you had ever bought any Facebook ads you would understand how it works. They don’t sell off the information they use the information and place the ads. I’ve been impressed with how much the ad placement has improved over the last year and find them relevant. The problem come in when you are talking about or interested in things that they don’t have an advertiser match-up. At that point you get generics (they didn’t buy specifics) or location based (i.e. everyone in New York).

    My experience is that for my ad dollar I get good response.

    • Glad to hear you’re getting a good response!

  • I disagree. As someone who specializes in Facebook advertising, I’m amazed at how powerful the platform is. I think the reason that you often see such bad ads is that most marketers don’t yet know how to use Facebook Ads effectively. Most of them treat the platform like Google AdWords, which is kind of like trying to toss a frisbee like you would throw a football.

  • I actually respect Facebook a lot for that. I don’t think Facebook is that so pious about protecting our privacy (Ahemm:, but at least this could be a nice effort. I agree with Sean about it being a surprisingly powerful platform with a lot of potential, although it’s currently too expensive, I believe.

    • Guy,

      It can certainly be expensive, especially if used without care. However, cost per click drops dramatically if your ads have a high CTR. I almost always end up paying half of Facebooks “suggested bid,” and have even payed $0.01 per click in less competitive markets. Fortunately, most advertisers are still pretty clueless on how to use Facebook Ads, so it’s fairly easy to beat their CTRs causing your CPC drop substantially.

  • I agree with Sean. Facebook advertising offers fantastic targeting opportunities, far beyond demographics. The reason you see so many irrelevant ads isn’t because the FB ad platform is flawed, but because advertisers are too lazy or stupid to use it properly.

    It’s unfortunate the CPC model breeds laziness and a spam mentality. FB should add a “I hate this ad” feature and terminate campaigns that get a high number of dings.

  • I don’t believe Facebook Ads suck either. I have a dentist PPC client that we started writing FB ads for a year ago and we are still running them for him. He loves them because we target the college students in his town and he has a special offer for them that they see as a sweet deal. Poor targeting comes from poor advertisers, but it often comes from FB trying to increase impression share for those with gigantic budgets. I have found that FB gives huge love to the advertisers bidding on the CPM model rather than CPC. If you say you’ll only pay me $100/day and you will only pay $.50/click, and another guy will pay $10,000/day, and they will pay $1.00 every time their ad is shown, it is a NO BRAINER for FB as to who they are going to give priority, because frankly, they have to worry about their bottom line a lot more than their users’ experience (unlike Google).

  • I do not think the crappy ads are the fault of facebook, but rather the criteria selected by the advertiser.

    I always look forward to the ads from all the pretty ladies 🙂

  • Michael Sully

    I think Facebook ads are pretty amazing. If you’d ever made one, you would know that Facebook really lets you hone your targets – and do so effectively. Now, there is a short movie that really outlines facebook privacy, it’s funny and a great movie overall, glad someone finally made it