Is P&G’s Move Away from Facebook Audience Targeting a Sign that it Doesn’t Work?

August 16, 2016


We think this announcement is more of indictment of the audience quality Proctor & Gamble was reaching, not of the need for audience targeting itself.  According to P&G, it found the same results from broader, lower CPM ad buys, which is no surprise to us, given Facebook’s user-created information and its “likes and shares” audience underpinnings.

Is P&G Move Away from Facebook Audience Targeting a Sign - Image

Even if P&G wasn’t promoting ubiquitous products such as Tide™ or Bounty™, Facebook’s reliance on user self-reported interests and lifestyles are often not accurate reflections of their actual affinities and needs (the same can be said of Web browser-based audiences).

Let’s take an example: IAM’S™ pet foods.  We all see the enormous number of “cute puppy” videos being posted every day on Facebook, and I’ve seen adjacent pet food ads to them myself.  My sister often “likes” and “shares” these posts, especially if they come from friends or family.  She even posts some herself.  But, my sister has lived in a no-pet building in Chicago for over seven years.  Is she likely to purchase IAM’s products?  You decide.

Here’s another: Pampers™.  My 70 year old father-in-law likes and shares seemingly dozens of baby photos and videos a week.  A likely Pampers buyer?  Not.  He’s simply showing off his grandchildren his network of friends and colleagues.

So, audience targeting wasn’t necessarily the culprit in this case.  It was Facebook’s inability to separate what it “thinks” users care about, from their actual interests and buying intent.

The good news for P&G and most other brands is that there is a better way: location-derived audiences.  These don’t rely on what consumers “say” they like, they’re built on where consumers actually go and what they do every day.  By pseudonymously gathering offline behaviors based on the local events and activities consumers engage in, brand marketers now know what consumers are likely to buy, not what they hope they will.

Using the previous examples, P&G can now target IAM’s pet products to consumers who visit pet parks, adoption events, veterinarian clinics and pet food stores.  They can also target Pampers products to consumers taking birthing and new parent classes and visiting baby-related retailers.  Probabilistic or deterministic?  I think we all know the answer.

To brands large and small: before you dismiss audience targeting as an ineffective strategy, perhaps you should re-think the sources, quality and makeup of the audiences you’ve been targeting up until now.

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