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Facebook’s Partner Categories Link Ad Targeting to Offline Purchases




Did you buy cereal at the grocery store this week? If you used a store loyalty card at check-out, then you might start seeing cereal ads when you log in to Facebook.

Facebook is now using both online and offline shopping data from “select third parties including Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon” to group Facebook users into very specific buckets. They call the new tool Partner Categories and for marketers, it’s pretty nifty.PartnerCategories1

In this example, an advertiser can pick not only people who bought cereal, but people who bought children’s cereal verses fiber cereal. If I’m selling toys, I want to hop on that first train. If I’m in the fitness biz, that second grouping looks good to me.

The description that accompanies each category includes the number of people in the sampling, the source of the data and information on how they landed in the group in the first place. In this example, 14,802,500 shoppers spent 3 times or more the national average on children’s cereal in the last 12 months. That’s a pretty good indicator that they probably have kids, but it could mean they simply have a sweet tooth or a Peter Pan complex.

As always, Facebook wants to make it clear that they will not disclose any identifying information. And they remind us that, “companies have long used this type of targeting off of Facebook, and we are excited to make this available to advertisers of all sizes on Facebook.”

In other words, everyone else is doing it, you just don’t know it. Because we’re Facebook, we have to be upfront about it or we’ll hear about it until doomsday.

Facebook also updated their privacy blog to assure users that they still have control of their data.

  • Inline Transparency.  When you see a Facebook ad, you can click the dropdown menu and then choose “About this Ad.”  This will bring you to a page that identifies the company that was responsible for including you in the audience for the ad — whether that company is Facebook or one of our partners.
  • Comprehensive Control.  Within the dropdown box associated with an ad, you can ask Facebook not to show you that ad again, or not to show you any ads from that partner.
  • Enhanced Disclosures.  Our partners have agreed to expand their public knowledge centers so that anyone can learn how they collect and use information.
  • Data Access Tools.  Finally, each of our partners is working to develop tools that will help people see audience segment information that the partner has associated with them, and to exercise control over that data.

That last one sounds like they’re going to let consumers see the same kind of information advertisers see in the new tool. I’d be interested in that because I do wonder, sometimes, how I get on these weird mailing lists. Honestly, people – I’m a TV and Internet addicted, Diet Coke drinking blogger – do you really think I’m interested in hiking?

Let’s look at another example from Facebook:

PartnerCategories2Here we have car buyers broken down by type of car. Very useful information for all kinds of marketers. For example, hiking catalog, check out the folks who own a full-size SUV.

Right now, there are over 500 unique partner categories, so there are plenty of options to choose from.

Tightly targeted ads? It’s a good thing for marketers and consumers. Facebook gets the gold star for this move.

  • JC

    Glad to have this sharing.