Using Data more Effectively with Facebook Custom Audiences

As advertisers strive to reach the audiences, and re-engage former users, Facebook has simplified this process. Using Facebook Custom Audiences, advertisers can reach old and new users in one fell swoop.

What are Custom Audiences?
Armed with a list of email addresses or phone numbers (CRM data), advertisers can upload the information as a CSV or TXT file into Facebook’s advertising platform, create a custom audience and target those individuals with relevant ads across Facebook. Information can also be captured from a website or mobile app using Facebook tags. Data collected on user site activity can then be segmented into different groups, such as users visiting specific products but failing to purchase.

Tapping into New Audiences
Instead of bombarding random users with irrelevant ads, Facebook offers a smart alternative to growing potential customer base through lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences use custom audience data to reach out to similar users that are relevant to your business on Facebook.

Lookalike audiences can be based off the data collected from people who: like your page, have visited your website, are part of the demographic you care about, or live in/are visiting your desired location. Advertisers can also focus on milestone/life events such as weddings, new homes, or a new baby, or even target specific preferences, such as dog lovers, fitness buffs, and coffee aficionados.

Re-engaging with Former Customers
Consumers are far more likely to buy from a brand they have previously purchased from, making Custom Audiences an efficient means of making your advertising budget go further. You only spend money on people you know are more likely to convert, rather than casting a wide net and wasting ad spend on people who aren’t your target demographic, or interested in your products or services.

Benefits of Facebook Custom Audiences

  • Reach Relevant New Users – for those trying to expand their customer base, lookalike audiences, are an incredibly powerful tool. Target new people who have a similar user profile to your current customers, indicating a higher propensity to purchase the products or services your business offers.
  • Increase page likes – get more people to notice your brand.
  • Selling/Upgrading a product – capture users who have purchased an item or service and market accessories or extras that they may find useful.
  • Reach users who don’t open your emails – many people automatically delete product emails or send them to a junk folder never to be seen again. By using Facebook’s Custom Audiences, you can capture this user when they are on Facebook by putting the product or service from your email in front of them in their news feed.
  • Remind your audience of a call-to-action – remind users to continue with an action they may have forgotten about in their email.
  • Turn free trial/“freemium” users into subscribers – show freemium users the extras available to them in their Facebook newsfeed – let them know the features they’re missing out available via subscription.
  • Promote contests – have a contest in the wings? Capture interest with customer who you want interacting with your event through Custom Audience targeting.
  • Encourage customer feedback when launching new products or services – ask your custom audience to respond to the survey on your latest product by offering an incentive like a “freebie”, or discount on their next purchase as a thank you for participating.
  • Enhance email marketing efforts – catch people in their inboxes, and on social media, doubling you chances for interaction.

Points to Remember

  • For website and mobile created custom audiences, users are only kept in the group for a maximum of 180 days, unless they revisit the site or use the mobile app again.
  • Lookalike audiences can only use people located in one country at a time.

Want More? Read our two white papers on how to use Facebook more effectively and Turning Big Data into Smart Data.

Panel Discussions at GADM’s Ad Blocking Friend or Foe?

The first session of the day’s conference, Ad Blocking: Friend or Foe was formal, but for the remaining guest speakers, talks were broken down into casual panels, giving the audience a better chance to ask questions and join the conversation.

This first panel, The Big Questions – Adblocking Friend or Foe?, caused lively debate because it featured Christian Dommers, Head of Development of AdBlock Plus, defending the ad blocking perspective from a volley of heated panelist and audience questions. He argued that although this issue seems to have exploded fairly recently, with the advent of mobile ad blocking, it’s not new, “Ad blocking has been an issue for years, it’s about the user, and his rights, and his right to protect himself.”

AdBlock Plus recently came under fire from advertisers and publishers for their part in the creation of the Acceptable Ads Board. The Acceptable Ads Board is an independent industry-wide group that determines which ads will make it past AdBlock Plus’ filters. The sticking point has been the accusation that AdBlock Plus are making money off the backs off advertisers and publishers while pretending to be the Robin Hood of web clean-up. AdBlock Plus faced harsh criticism this past September when the Wall Street Journal reported that several large advertisers had come forward, claiming they were being asked to fork over a portion of their ad traffic in order to be whitelisted. Dommers was adamant that AdBlock Plus was not earning at the publisher’s expense, nor engaging in underhanded tactics; he argued that this has been an issue since 2002, and that whitelisting certain ads is best practice.

The discussion then moved onto whether charging advertisers and publishers for whitelisting was acceptable. Martin AshplantMetro’s Digital Director challenged Dommers, asking, “Why do you get to say whats OK, and not OK? You’re the arbiters of a system that penalises”. Dommers stood firm saying, “AdBlock Plus are not arbitrating, the users of Adblocker make the decision of what’s deemed an acceptable ad, and what’s not an acceptable ad.”

Ashplant took a harsh stance towards ad blocking activity; Metro actively bars content to users who have ad blockers installed. Ashplant says it’s a big issue for the Metro, 19% of their impressions were found to have ad blockers installed. Other large publications have followed suit, The New York Times has recently experimented with similar messaging with some users. When the user with an ad blocker installed visits the page, a message pops up saying: “The best things in life aren’t free.” and then prompted to whitelist the paper or subscribe to read content. Ashplant felt publishers were being punished for the ‘worst in class’ players, and users who had one bad experience weren’t going to turn ad blockers off for advertisers who did have decent ads. “There is certainly room to improve at the moment and also, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. We have to work very hard to convince those who use adblockers, not to use them.”

More control for publishers might be around the corner with Google’s launch of AMP, which creates web pages that load quickly. This may be an avenue worth looking into for advertisers, Ashplant added, “What will the monetization from this look like? It could be an interesting proposition, and give publishers more control.” Another suggestion was for publishers to look at apps to circumvent ad blocking and to better engage with consumers. Ad blocking on mobile is still relatively minimal because people spend a lot of time in app on their phone, but it’s still popular on desktop.

57% of people polled by the IAB had no clue that advertising funded the content they saw online. IAB CEO, Guy Philipson suggested that in light of this grim statistic, advertisers need to reframe the conversation with the consumer and better educate them about the relationship between ads and content. Philipson also mentioned that retargeting is an issue; users don’t like being followed around the internet, or like having their transaction data used later for advertising purposes.

What do we need to do to move forward towards change? Dommer concluded the session by maintaining the that its up to the individual to be able to control what they view online, while Ashplant appealed to advertisers in the audience to take the issue very seriously, “Companies and organizations will be forced to close down, or put that charge on the consumer because someone has to pay for that content.”

iStock - Angry manThe second panel, Creative, the Value Exchange and Targeting Millennials, focused the conversation on ad quality, creative spend, and native advertising. Lolly Mason, Head of Media Partnerships EMEA at Celtra issued a challenge to advertisers: “Let’s create something awesome that people want to interact with. We’ve been disrespectful as advertisers to users, so it’s not a surprise to see an increase in ad blocking. People are annoyed by interstitials that won’t close down, or ads blasting loudly on your desktop or mobile, it’s a horrible experience. Millennials are not used to seeing the rubbish sites of the 90s.”

The panel agreed that people don’t necessarily hate ads, citing the earlier Ipsos example of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s Christmas ads. People talk about them, anticipate them, and like sharing them. The same holds for movie goers, who go to the theatre early to catch movie trailers. People will watch these ads and engage with them because they are done well.

Laura Jordan Bambach, Creative Partner at Mr. President felt that the balance between creative and message spend is out of whack. Brands are not spending enough on the message, and the quality of message is suffering. “You forget the person on the end is a human being and might want to be inspired.” The creative element is under a tremendous amount of pressure, with many creative agencies dying out because they can’t keep up. Bambach added, “The split between media and creative has really done us a disservice. We’ve become very lazy as an industry. There are opportunities to do really exciting thing, workout side the box.”

Panel moderator Bob WoottonISBA, noted that the creative being offered now is clearly insufficient, with all the ad blocking taking place, and Dale Lovell, Chief Digital Officer at Adyoulike suggested that the technology that underpins the ad process is struggling to catch up. Lovell works with native advertising and indicated that the majority of native ads are user initiated. He also said that Millenials are very demanding, very impatient, and have set the bar high for advertisers. The session concluded with all panellists optimistic about the future.

The final panel discussed The Future of Ad Blocking. What should advertisers do about ad blocking? How are they affected?

Nigel Gilbert, VP and Strategic Development EMEA at AppNexus, said, “The commercial issues are fairly obvious, if 30-40% of ads are blocked, it creates scarcity and prices will rise. The other issue is that with ad blocking, there is a part of the demographic you can’t advertise to, and that’s a problem and something advertisers need to get ahead of.”

Piers North, Strategy Director at Trinity Mirror noted that the monetization issue is more of a desktop problem than mobile at the moment. While mobile will be impacted, it’s a much smaller share of the pie in terms of ad blocking activity.

The panelists were asked if they felt there was an onus to educate publishers and advertisers? Nigel Gwilliam, Consultant Head of Media and Emerging Tech at IPA, responded, “The short answer is yes. It’s a very important wake up call…Consumers are telling us there is an issue here. The way forward might be to ask what do we do about that other than threatening to turn off content. Are there better ways? We need a better understanding of what is OK vs what is entirely unacceptable.” He concluded by suggesting that “badges” might be a solution.

Dr. Johnny Ryan, Head of Ecosystem at Pagefair felt that advertisers want a reduction of clutter, and cut right to the chase saying, “The meat of the discussion is this: advertising 1.0 is over. We have a smaller sandbox. Focus on premium ads.” 

The common refrain of the day was that ad blocking is a wake up call to advertisers and publishers. While ad blocking activities have been around for several years, the renewed interest and surge in the installation of ad blockers, especially on mobile, is sending a clear message that consumers are not happy with what they’re getting. Advertising is no longer about captive audiences, users are actively participating in, and now controlling, what they want to see.  Advertisers with shoddy practices and ads are being taken to task. This is a call to action; consumers are no longer willing to be subjected to intrusive, disruptive advertising. The advertising industry must sit up and take note, listen to consumers, or face the very real prospect of being shut out across all screens.

Ad Blocking: Friend or Foe? Strategies and Tips from GADM’s Ad Blocking Conference

Damian Ryan (GADM) welcoming audience to Ad Blocking - Friend or Foe at IAB UK

Since Apple introduced the ability to block ads on its latest mobile iOS9 platform in September 2015, and Samsung followed suit on its Android phones in early 2016, advertisers and publishers have become increasingly concerned about being shut out of one of the most lucrative channels in advertising history. Damian Ryan, founder of the Global Academy of Digital Marketing welcomed academics, mobile, and digital representatives, media and industry bloggers, as well as ad blocking agencies, to get the whole picture, and discuss this contentious issue.

Ryan introduced the day-long conference by speaking about ad blocking’s recent upswing in popularity, its growth in advertising, and the future ramifications for the industry.

The first speaker, was Nick Hugh, VP EMEA, Yahoo. Hugh lamented that while everyone is talking about ad blocking, it pains him to see much stronger, and more definitive action taking place overseas. Countries like France have been proactive in foiling users with ad blockers, and as a result, have seen significant reductions in the use of ad blocking software.

How bad is it really? Hugh surmised that even with the more proactive stance being taken by advertisers on the continent, the percentages are worse in Continental Europe than in the UK. Ad blocking in the UK is an issue, but it is not as high as in Continental Europe. An Ipsos study discovered that only 17% of people in the UK use ad blockers. The key to combating further encroachment of ad blocking lies in understanding why people block ads in the first place. The following issues are cited as the top reasons for installing ad blockers:

  • Interruption
  • Annoying ads
  • Slows down web browsing
  • Privacy concerns
  • Irrelevant advertising

Hugh suggested that advertisers need to engage with users, shape better experiences for them, listen to their concerns, and prioritize user needs. He also touched on the issue of ad blocking on desktop versus mobile, and the benefits of native advertising. Native ads appear to be favoured by users across mobile and desktop, and will continue to thrive since they are perceived to be ‘less irritating’.

Strategies to Prevent or Lessen Ad Blocking Activity
Hugh covered some of the tactics advertisers have been using to combat the influx of ad blocking. Some advertisers pay to get “white listed”, meaning they pay to add themselves to a “safe list” with companies such as Ad Block Plus so that their ads are shown through ad blockers. This ‘pay-to-play’ didn’t sit very well with advertisers and publishers in the audience, as it left the onus entirely on the publisher to subsidize the cost for their ads, with the feeling that the ad blocking companies were making money at the publisher’s expense. Several audience members pointed out that such strategies paint all advertisers as ‘bad apples’, and not every advertiser can afford to constantly cough up money to circumvent all the ad blocking technology now available. There were suggestions for a model where the user is charged a fee to subsidize the cost.

ad-blocking-slide - Yahoo, Nick Hugh. Other advertisers are playing a cat and mouse game of using blockers to block ad blockers, but this is a band-aid solution that doesn’t resolve the crux of the issue. Then there is the completely transparent approach where an advertiser can message their users saying they’ve detected they’re using a blocker and politely request they turn it off because advertisers need ad revenue to survive.

Lastly, there is a more hostile tactic: Users are sent a message stating that the advertiser is aware that they are using an adblocker, and to uninstall it or they will be unable to see any of the content on the site. This draconian strategy has been used France and Sweden to combat ad blocking but it has been met with some criticism fot pitting the advertiser/publisher against the user in an antagonistic way that further frays the customer-advertiser relationship. According to Hugh, advertisers have to evolve; ad blocking is a wake-up call for change. He closed his talk with the following strategies for ad blocking under the acronym “DEAL“:

Action, not Inaction

  • Detect ad blocking in order to initiate a conversation
  • Explain the value exchange that advertising enables
  • Ask for changed behaviour in order to maintain an equitable exchange
  • Lift/limit restrictions/access in response to consumer choices

Following Hugh, Adam Gagen, Director of Legal and Public Affairs at the World Federation of Advertisers, spoke more on why people ad block and what advertisers and publishers can expect to develop on this front in the coming year.

According to Gagen, ad blocking is essentially the consumer saying “no”, they want a different deal from advertisers. Media is not free, services aren’t free, and ad blocking is really only the beginning, and has been growing steadily since 2010.

Why? Gagen posited that it’s mainly, because it’s free and easy to do. Ad blocking radically changed how users experience advertising, and often, all it takes is one bad experience to have someone download an ad blocker. Privacy is another big reason for installing ad blocking software, and for some users, it can be the main reason depending on their socio-economic demographic.

Gagen drove home the idea that this is a serious issue, “A lot of money is being lost and real people are being affected because they can’t continue to work without an income.” Ad blocking can impact the ability of users to get great new material because publishers are unable to continue producing content for free. How do we find a balance? Gagen suggested a more nuanced approach may be required. Some tips for weathering storm included:

  • Expect to see more tools, trackers that tell you if you’re being tracked.
  • Expect and learn to embrace disruption. “Disruption in the ecosystem is now deciding who has the power”
  • Brands must lead: look at imperical, granular data to understand user thresholds, i.e., what is the point where people get annoyed and tune out?
  • Make standards and definitions a reality, Gagen warned, “We need to change the reality out there.”
  • Make people understand that they won’t get these cool new products and services if advertising doesn’t happen. In theory, this in turn, should produce better advertising.

The third speaker of the first session was Thomas Mendrina, GM, Sourcepointa company that helps publishers and advertisers come up with stratgeies to retain compensation for content while balancing consumer privacy needs. Mendrina spoke about the situation in Germany with regards to ad blocking. Germans are very privacy sensitive; when ad blocking software landed in Germany, publishers felt like victims with little to no power. Lawsuits were were filed against ad blocking companies, but to no avail; the adblock rate did not reduce. In 2014, 24% of German users were using ad blockers on their desktops. How did German publishers combat this issue?

Mendrina said that explaining the value exchange of why advertising is necessary is an important part of winning the war against ad blocking. Advertisers must demonstrate that their content is important and worth either paying for, or permitting ads. This conversation gave publishers the power back to engage with the user and work out a solution. The heavy-handed approach used in some countries on the continent, where users are blocked and not allowed to to visit a website unless the ad blocker is uninstalled, is not a consumer-centric approach, but at least it took concrete action to impart why advertising, and compensation for content must happen.

Key Take Aways

  • Publishers need to stay user-centric and offer users multiple compensatoin options, but that no compensation is not an option.
  • Advertisers must make better ads for all users – especially those who whitelist.

Our final speaker for the opening session was Tara Beard-Knowland, Senior Director at Ipsos. Beard-Knowland, like others, looked at the reasons behind ad blocking from polls conducted by Ipsos.

How big is the problem? 73% of the people Ipsos spoke to used an ad blocker. That’s 1 in 6 users, which is a fairly significant number. Much as with previous presentations, the issues were similar:

  • Intrusive ads getting in the way of what user was doing. 57% of users cite interference as a reason for installing ad blockers.
  • Irrelevant advertising 56%: Ads need to be relevant and in the moment, to capture user interest when they are likely to need that product or service.
  • Annoying – 69%

Ipsos discovered some interesting points from its research: People were less averse to offline ads, educational or entertainment advertising. Users were interested in “old school” forms of advertising, such as print. If the ad furthered their knowledge of a particular item, or brought attention to an important issue, users were more likely to tolerate it. Ads were also accepted for the entertainment industry, such as a movie trailers letting people know what they will see in theatres. It came as no surprise that gambling and dating ads were cited as the most annoying, as high as 74% by male users between the ages of 18-40

Beard-Knowland reiterated the fact that advertisers need to make better advertising,“Advertising needs to be relevant, otherwise what’s the point?…it’s about getting the basics right”. Quality was also problematic, but if an ad was done well, people clamoured to see it, such as the famous UK John Lewis Christmas ads. People tune in and discuss them endlessly over the Christmas season. They capture people’s interest and are emotionally invested. They are a great example of how an advertiser can share the right message, be relevant, and engage users.