Facebook’s New Policies for Custom Audiences

Agencies and advertisers breathed a sigh of relief with Facebook’s June 13th announcement regarding custom audiences. Beginning on July 2nd, Facebook will begin new policies for their “Custom Audiences” advertising product. These policies don’t change their existing terms for custom audiences, but rather require advertisers to provide additional clarity on data sources, and assurances of opted-in status. The key point here is that Facebook will continue allowing advertisers to use third-party data sources to create custom audiences.

The option to create “custom audiences” is a campaign tactic that lets advertisers upload a list of phone numbers, email addresses, mobile advertising identifiers, and a few other data points to Facebook, who then matches the list against their existing user base. This lets advertisers create relevant audiences from their own data as well as other data sources.

Confusion surrounded the fate of custom audiences when Facebook announced they would be phasing out their “Partner Category” program. This tactic allowed advertisers to use integrated audience targeting from data platforms such as Acxiom and Experian. What the ad industry was uncertain about, but is now confirmed, is that Facebook would shift the use of third party data outside their platform, away from Partner Categories and towards Custom Audiences.

In the new process, advertisers will be presented with a dialog asking them to verify the source and opted-in status of their data. The opt-in status has always been a requirement per Facebook’s terms, but it will now be more prominent when creating campaigns. Facebook users will also have more visibility into why they’re receiving a particular ad.

This approach seems built to shift responsibility to an advertiser, and subtly reinforce the value of working with Facebook’s first-party directly. It also remains unclear how Facebook will determine if an advertiser answers truthfully about their data, but it allows Facebook to wash their hands, as much as they can, from culpability.

Finally, it’s a tacit acknowledgement from Facebook that advertisers rely heavily upon third party data for ad targeting. We expect to see advertisers shift their focus to using Custom Audiences instead of Partner Categories for campaigns that need targeting capabilities beyond what Facebook provides today.