Dear Marketers on Facebook
Please Stop Selling Me Babies and Birth Control
Dear Marketers on Facebook,
You are doing a shitty job. The Facebook ad platform has provided you with a lot of resources for sending out targeted relevant ads, and you’re making a mess of it.
Usually I’m pretty good about not paying attention to Facebook ads. I don’t play Farmville, and I tend to ignore the “government money to go back to school” ads that pop up. I also log into Facebook on a severely less frequent basis than I used to several years ago. I can get Facebook updates on my phone or via Threadsy, so I don’t spend as much time actually navigating through the site. However, over a month ago I was doodling around a little on Facebook, and I was struck by the ads that started popping up. Not only did they get my attention, they were a little disconcerting. Disconcerting because, as someone who has run Facebook ads for work, I know what segmenting and targeting options marketers have when setting up their ads, and I tend to assume they’ll make good use of their options. I was surprised to see that the majority of the ads popping up on my pages related to babies and birth control.
What did I do to deserve ads hocking birth control pills and free baby bottle samples? I’m pretty sure I didn’t list “promiscuous and pregnant” anywhere on my profile. I used to get ads for new lesbian dating networks and t-shirts that said something like “Shane is my home girl.” These ads never surprised me because I listed The L Word under my TV preferences. It made sense. Now that The L Word has wrapped, it seems I’ve been kicked over to the dark side, the land of babies and birth control.
I tweeted my surprise at the time, and then several days later I saw a story in The New York Times acknowledging the “off-key” ads that are appearing on Facebook now that businesses of all shapes and sizes have entered into the social advertising arena.
There have been numerous stories of small companies seeing great success when they started running a few highly tailored Facebook ads. But I second the surprise of one woman referenced in the NYT article who was a bit shocked at being shown an ad for Plan B. The article quotes Tim Hanlon, a principal at a consulting firm as saying, “When it works, it’s amazingly impactful, but when it doesn’t work, it’s not only creepy but off-putting.”
Facebook ads let the marketer select a much more specific audience than could ever be possible through a paid search platform like Google Adwords. The marketer has the option of refining the viewers by a number of characteristics to ensure that the ad hits the best target audience; you can set an ad to be shown only to people of a specific gender and age, living in a certain area, and with stated interests. Careful targeting and segmentation in any marketing campaign are usually good. Highly relevant ads tend to do better and are more likely to be well-received by the viewer. All that said, why do the ads I get suck so much?
I started taking screen shots of any ad that I thought obnoxious or irrelevant each time I logged into Facebook. Many of the ads showed up multiple times. Below is a random smattering of the Facebook ads I see:
Ok, I’ll at least give this ad credit for taking a stab at location-targeting. Unfortunately, while they got the right state, they didn’t get my city right. And I’m not engaged or getting married?
Planned Parenthood wants to give me free birth control. Ok, fine. But did I list something that makes them think I want birth control, or is every woman on Facebook over the age of 18 getting this ad?
So if I got Yaz from my free Planned Parenthood birth control, I might have needed to have my gallbladder removed. Ugh. I’m guessing this ad leads to something about a lawsuit.
If I’m pregnant, there’s someone on Facebook who wants to talk options?
If talking to the people in the previous ad doesn’t help, I guess I can always give my baby up for adoption through this ad (if I were actually pregnant.)
Mommy to Be
I’m not a mom or a mom-to-be! I don’t want to have fun with other moms.
Oh look, I can get free baby bottles in the mail! Tons of free samples for babies, and tons of times I’ve seen these ads go by.
Already a Mom
Great, Gerber wants cute baby pictures. They should probably tell that to someone with access to cute babies.
Pampers wants pictures of babies too. If I had a baby, I would definitely send it’s picture in because the baby in this ad looks like a cross between an alien and a naked mole rat.
So if I have a kid, someone’s going to give me $10,000? Maybe I should go find a kid…
Apparently home schooling can be overwhelming. That’s probably why I wouldn’t home school my kids, if I had any.
A few problems here: I don’t have a kid. There’s a logo on the picture, but I can’t see what it says. The ad copy is unclear; what exactly is this for? I don’t live in Lane County (although I know where it is). You have to dial the area code in Oregon now, and they didn’t include it with the phone number.
Snotsucker Nosefrida nasal aspirator? What did I possibly do wrong to deserve this ad?
If Birth Control Wasn’t Enough
Of course I get an ad for low sex drive too.
Just Bad Ads
My alma mater is Occidental College. I’m in the Occidental network on Facebook. I’ve been in the Occidental network since 2004. By now, someone should know where I went to school. I’ve never even heard of Chrichton.
Ok friend, first of all, good luck renting carpet fans over Facebook. Second, “Wet Carpets” isn’t saying much. And how about that period floating around? No caps on the “we” and no period after “fans?” Did you proof read your ad? Also, I did a little checking for you, and if your business is really in the Boston area (I’m assuming from the phone number), you might have better results if you don’t show your ad to people who live in Oregon.
Actually, no. I don’t need any refrigerator trucks.
Hi Spider Monkey Marketing, aside from the fact that I don’t have any reason to become your fan, your image is awfully hard to read.
Again with the bad image choices. Does anyone look at their ads before setting them live?
I don’t even know what this is supposed to be for.
I get a ton of these “make your baby” ads. These people might want to double check their spelling of “little.”
Not only do I NOT drive a Hummer, I think they are some of the dumbest vehicles ever unleashed on the consumer market.
What? I don’t know what this is for or what message they’re trying to get across, but it looks like an old phone from the pre-mobile era – not exactly synonymous with independence.
Do a Better Job with Your Targeting
It isn’t that often that marketers have the opportunity to really refine their target audience and match it to their market. So why are so many people doing a lousy job? I have two hunches: Perhaps Facebook is pulling a sneaky move, similar to Google, and showing ads they think might be relevant to people the marketer didn’t necessarily specify, all in the name of making more money. If that’s the case, then they need to smarten up.
The other option is that a lot of the people out there making Facebook ads are just doing a really awful job. Not all women in their twenties need samples of baby bottles. Don’t suck at Facebook marketing. Use the targeting controls to really refine your campaign audience to small select groups. It will probably save you money and spare me some babies.