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At the end of March, Facebook announced that they will no longer offer Partner Categories on their advertising platform. Facebook has historically had relationships with these third-party data entities (such as Acxiom or Experian) to offer advertisers the ability to better target their ads.

Base Image Credit: Acxiom

You have probably heard of Cambridge Analytica, which misused Facebook user data from over 87 million users in an attempt to affect various political campaigns in 2016. Cambridge Analytica did not access this information via Partner Categories; they obtained the data back in 2013 under fraudulent pretense through Facebook’s app system. However, the resulting public outcry from the news of this misuse of personal data, and the subsequent fact that Cambridge Analytica has been unable (or unwilling) to prove that said data has been fully deleted, has caused Facebook to reevaluate their data policies.

In a recent message, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook would be taking additional steps to restrict data access overall. The decision to bar Partner Categories is part of this effort to change the amount of personal information available to companies on the platform.

When Will This Take Effect?

The transition to move away from these audiences will begin in May. There will be two separate timelines – one for audiences in US, Brazil, Japan, and Australia and another for audiences in UK, Germany, and France – due to the institution of the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union.

May 10, 2018: Last day for creating or editing campaigns using Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France. Any existing campaigns using these audiences will be allowed to run until May 24th.

May 25, 2018: Any residual campaigns using audiences built from the UK, Germany, and France will stop delivering.

June 30, 2018: Last day for creating or editing campaigns using Partner Categories built on audiences in the US, Brazil, Japan, and Australia. Any existing campaigns using these audiences will be allowed to run until September 30.

October 1, 2018: Partner Categories will no longer be available as targeting options on the platform, and any residual campaigns will stop delivering against these audiences. All advertisers using Partner Categories must update their campaign targeting by this date.

What Does This Mean for 3Q Clients?

As marketers, we’re used to constant change in the industry and have instituted processes to protect our clients’ media spend. The investment into data management and measurement services with 3Q means that your Facebook advertisements are uniquely addressable and measurable. We will still be able to create acquisition audiences crafted within Lotame, utilizing hundreds of consumer data points that are infused with the characteristics of your best customers, and sent directly into your Facebook ad account. As a data management solution, Lotame (and similar companies) is not affected by the removal of Partner Categories. We don’t expect an impact in performance due to this policy change if clients continue to work with Lotame. To further enhance user-level insights and measurement, 3Q partners with VisualIQ, one of only two trusted partners Facebook allows impression-level tagging for on such audiences.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Brands that have been relying on third-party data for their targeting efforts will have to pivot their strategy. If you’ve been using Partner Categories in an effort to find scale, there are some tactics you can try as a replacement:

1. Generate Custom Audiences & Lookalikes (LAL) off of Converters from 3rd-Party Audiences

If you aren’t already, make sure that you’re passing through unique URL parameters for your third-party audiences so that you can generate custom audiences and LALs off of them. These can then be used after Facebook pulls the plug. Make sure to also look at the overlap with your existing LALs. They may not be worth running if they have a high overlap, but if the overlap percentage is small, you may have a large enough, unique audience to target.

2. Maximize Facebook’s 1st-Party Data

With so many new options and targeting strategies that have come out over the last few years, have you forgotten about Facebook’s 1st-party data? It may be time to check back in on all the options native to the Facebook platform.

3. Further Refine Your Seed Audiences

LALs have always been an incredibly powerful tool in the the marketer’s holster. It’s time to get creative and think of new ways to build new seed lists (and LALs from them).

The industry changes all the time; continuing to drive good results and performance means you must be aware of these changes and course-correct as needed. This situation is no different! It’s simply another opportunity to rethink and adjust. And as always: test. Test, test, and test again.