March 20, 2019

Facebook Places Limitations on Ad Targeting

For companies in the real estate and housing, employment recruiting, and credit-card industries, advertising on Facebook just got a lot more challenging.

Facebook announced this week that they will no longer allow advertisers to target users by age, gender, and ZIP code for advertisements related to housing, employment, and credit offers. The change comes on the heels of major legal settlement with a civil rights organization – a settlement spawned by a ProPublica report showing Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude users by race, religion, and other demographics in violation of Federal anti-discrimination laws.

The changes come after a very bad March for Facebook. They saw two top executives resign over disagreement with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new strategic direction, faced backlash when their platform live-streamed the New Zealand massacre, and accidentally misidentified Trump’s social media director as a bot and blocked him from commenting. All of this on the heels of them optimistically announcing that their platform will become a privacy-focused messaging platform.

For companies in the real estate and housing, employment recruiting, and payment card industries, Facebook’s changes will seriously affect the advertisement capabilities on the platform. Facebook will create a separate online portal for these types of advertisements and also soften the targeting features that currently allow advertisers to choose from among hundreds of “interests” based on users Facebook activity and search history. For consumers, this portal will show users all current advertisements in each category—whether it corresponds to their interests or not.

Marketers within these industries will now have to think of new, creative and, most importantly, non-discriminatory tactics to advertise their products on Facebook. There are still hundreds of interests to choose from when creating an advertisement, and we predict that keen marketers have already begun to find opportunities for targeted advertisements within the newly defined scope. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if similar restrictions are placed on other advertisements from other industries such as political, educational, or religious entities—and what the consequences and hassles are for them to continue using the Facebook advertising platform as a result.