“P&G to Scale Back Targeted Facebook Ads.” For those of us in the ad tech industry, it was an eye-catching headline. The story is that after getting deep into targeting specific types of people on Facebook, Procter & Gamble realized they had gone too far, and were getting less effective performance on their targeted campaigns then they were on more broadly targeted ads. Now they’re pulling back their spend on those types of campaigns.
Unfortunately it seems like P&G is jumping to the wrong conclusion, as precision-targeted ads, when done correctly, are almost always more efficient than broader campaigns. There are two main pitfalls that marketers need to be aware of when evaluating targeted campaigns.
- The targets could be wrong. The article describes how P&G targeted “Febreze air freshener at pet owners and households with large families … [and] found that sales stagnated during the effort.” But perhaps there isn’t much room for growth in that category, if those pet owners and large families already buy Febreze? Or on the opposite end, those types of families aren’t too concerned about stray odors? Without more testing or research, it’s hard to say, but either way a broader audience could deliver better results.
A related possibility is that the ads might not be reaching the right targets. Facebook is pretty reliable about hitting the right users, but perhaps their “pet owner” targeting is catching a lot people who are just animal lovers. Or perhaps “large families” includes people with lots of family members on Facebook,but who don’t live together.
The takeaway is that just because a campaign is precise—focused on a small group of users—it’s not necessarily accurate, or reaching an audience that will provide real business results.
- The audience could be saturated or simply not big enough. It seems strange to say that about a platform with 1.7 billion monthly active users—but once refined by geography, demography, and interests, that audience gets much, much smaller. Ad blockers could have been further reducing that number (until Facebook’s surprise announcement at the beginning of the week that it would be serving ads in a way designed to circumvent blockers.)
Beyond the raw numbers, the fact remains that even well-targeted Facebook campaigns are single-channel campaigns, limited to a single ad format and a limited user experience. Diversifying your approach has long been a key tactic for marketing success, for several reasons:
- Guarding against risk (increasing costs or decreasing performance in any one channel)
- Reaching additional audiences
- Reaching people in multiple ways to maximize conversion opportunities
- Reaching people more cost effectively (when you can reach the same person through multiple channels, you can choose the most cost effective one)
Of course P&G is doing consumer marketing, a different beast than B2B marketing which is more targeted by definition. But the fact is that there are other precision targeting options available today on mobile beside Facebook: and some of them, like Fiksu, offer some of Facebook’s most compelling features, like programmatic lookalike modeling and audience targeting at massive scale, and can be effective for B2C as well as B2B marketing.
Whether running broad campaigns or precise targeting, most advertisers on mobile today will find Facebook to be an effective channel. However for the best overall results, smart marketers should be diversifying: both investing in additional channels and expanding their target audiences.