Meta: Special Ad Audiences No Longer Allowed

Special Ad Audiences Leaving Special Category Campaigns

Digital Marketing

Camryn Foster

Oct 03 2022

Get ready, there are new changes in Meta coming soon! Starting October 12th, Special Ad Category campaigns will no longer be able to use Special Ad Audiences, a tool utilized to further reach target audiences for ads that pertain to Housing, Employment, and Credit. It’s important to note that regular Lookalike audiences can still be used for campaigns in the Political Special Ad Category.

What Are They?

Special Ad Audiences target users who have similar online behaviors to existing consumers. Existing consumer behavior can be attributed in the form of customer lists, website visitors, conversion-based audiences, and offline events. Although similar to Lookalike audiences, these audiences are required to comply with Special Ad Category targeting restrictions. Campaigns in those categories have limited or unavailable targeting options which alleviate discrimination against people based on certain personal characteristics, as defined by Meta’s discriminatory practices policy.

Why Is This Happening?

This change is prompted by a settlement agreement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in order for Meta to “advance non-discrimination and fairness” in their ads system. Specifically, this settlement will introduce a method known as the “Variance Reduction System (VRS),” which will reduce differences in Ad Impressions between Eligible Audiences and Actual Audiences. In other words, Meta will seek out the differences between those who actually fit the characteristics of an Eligible Audience and are seeing the respective ads versus those who do not comply. To protect people’s privacy, Meta will also use “privacy-preserving approaches to measure race and ethnicity at the aggregate level.” As mentioned in the settlement, this process, also known as the VRS Development Period, will take place over the next few months. On December 16, 2022, both Meta and HUD will agree on the final metrics for VRS and the implementation will occur by December 31, 2022.

Why Is This Important?

Ultimately, this change stems from the fact that “discrimination in housing, employment and credit is a deep-rooted problem with a long history in the US.” It also confronts advertising companies who have an obligation to address how technology and marketing strategies may affect marginalized communities. In today’s fast-paced digital economy, companies are always looking for new ways to target their ideal consumer, but it’s imperative for those same companies to be ethical in their approach too. Consequently, this will allow for a more level playing field that will benefit the consumer. While it’s important to know who your target audience is, it’s also crucial to be aware of how social media ads can be invasive to the everyday person, in order to better serve them.

What Can We Do Instead?

For social campaigns, this change will affect the capacity to reach smaller, more detailed audiences for clients that currently run ads in Special Ad Categories. Meta encourages advertisers to “explore broader targeting options” which may help define Special Ad Category audiences further. Another alternative is using broader prospecting with a more refined retargeting audience. By incorporating audiences such as video viewers, site visitors, engaged visitors, and CRM lists into retargeting ad sets, this will help offset the limited targeting options yet refocus ads on those who are still interested in the product/company. From a creative standpoint, taking away Special Ad Audiences will shed light on conscientious ways to audit and manage current and future campaigns.

In conclusion, although this change will impact the ability to get granular with prospecting targeting, it will be beneficial to the civil rights groups, policymakers, and regulators who are making strides in the industry of social media marketing and ad fairness.

Visit the Meta Business Help Center for more information. 

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