How Facebook Targeted Ads Became My Shopping Assistant


The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed after work, smiling at cute animal videos and liking friends’ life updates. I came upon an ad that caught my attention with the words, “Buy your mom the perfect Mother’s Day gift! Donate school for a year to an underprivileged woman.” Oops! I had forgotten that Mother’s Day was less than two weeks away. And here in front of me was a gift I knew she would love, and a gift I would feel good about giving. I quickly typed in my payment details and an E-Card was sent off to her inbox, informing her of the donation in her name. Within 10 minutes I had received an email from her thanking me for the gift, saying it was perfect. It really was the perfect gift for her (and for me)… how did Facebook know?

Spray And Pray Marketing is on its Way Out. 

Imagine you’re sitting at home watching Netflix on your computer and you see an ad pop up for 50% off Six Flags Great Adventure…but you’re terrified of heights. Picture yourself on Amazon trying to find a new cooking pot when you see an advertisement for Jack’s Barbecue Ribs Joint…but you’re vegetarian. Do you even acknowledge these ads anymore? No—most likely, you completely ignore them. This type of advertising is called Spray and Pray, and it’s not beneficial for advertisers, let alone consumers.

Spray and Pray advertising relies on the notion that only numbers matter. If a company sends out 10,000 generic emails and receives ten responses, then the job is done. This quantity-over-quality (or activity over outcome) 1 mentality affects consumers’ perception of the brand, and runs the risk of negatively impacting retention numbers, brand perception, and purchase rates. I, for one, am guilty of unsubscribing from email notifications because I couldn’t take the constant barrage of emails that were unrelated to me. Just because I purchased a gift for my sister five years ago does not mean I am still interested in cat-related products…I am the epitome of a dog person. I fall into the 84% of high volume sensitive consumers who unsubscribe from email lists because of the influx of emails unrelated to me. 2 And that’s just an example of the damage done by Spray and Pray through emails. The numbers lost are even worse for other platforms.

From Spray & Pray to Micro-targeted Ads

In short: the patience that consumers used to have for Spray and Pray advertising is practically nonexistent today. So, how do companies shift from relying on Spray and Pray advertising to a more customized strategy? One way is by conducting targeting advertising research, to assure that your message gets in front of consumers that are actually interested. Data, data, data, is a company’s best friend when it comes to preventing unwanted and unneeded advertising. Another method that is happily experiencing the snowball effect is customized social media advertising—my favorite kind of advertising.

The Benefits of Facebook & Social Media Advertising


I would be hard-pressed to name even one person I know who is completely social media account-free. Therefore the popularity of advertising on social media is undisputed. People go online to relax and scroll aimlessly around, reading updates from people they haven’t spoken to in years. They don’t want to be pestered with advertisements that are unrelated to them, and social media platforms are increasingly becoming aware of this.

Facebook doesn't want to waste your time, and so we have increasingly targeted ad campaigns. 

As evident in my personal experience, Facebook offers advertisers the opposite of Spray and Pray. It wasn’t just luck that I saw an advertisement for a Mother’s Day gift that I would love giving and my mom would love receiving. On the contrary, that was the result of Facebook zeroing in on my reading, shopping, and clicking habits. Want another example?

After booking my trip to Turks and Caicos in August, I realized it was time for me to be more mindful of my eating habits. I love to snack, but when it comes to portion sizes and calorie count, I’m not the best at making healthy decisions. I either end up with snacks that are low in calories but I have to force myself to eat, or snacks high in calories that I love and eat too much of. There was no balance for me. A few days after making the decision to start eating better, I was served an advertisement for the exact service I was looking for. Facebook, using targeting and data technology, read my mind. I signed up that day.


I’m not the only one who responds to targeting ads on Facebook and other social media outlets, and I’m definitely not the only one who appreciates these ads over Spray and Pray, either. More than half of individuals aged 18-24 prefer to be served ads that relate to a product or service they want or need, and the consensus is that Facebook does it best3.

So, what’s the secret to Facebook’s micro-targeted ads?

The answer can be summed up in three words: The Facebook Pixel. Unlike usual advertising data that helps to target your audience based on age and gender—and don’t get me wrong, that data is incredibly beneficial—the Facebook Pixel goes one step further and keeps track of your online activity: past purchases, what you read, etc. 4 Once you leave Facebook, this incredibly valuable pixel follows you around, collecting information that will help tailor the ads you see on Facebook more and more and more, until you’re smiling at your computer screen, relieved you found the product you had been looking for—guilty! Facebook’s targeting and customization works for advertisements, and I’m speaking from personal experience. Don’t believe me? Check out this article that dives into Facebook’s Custom Audiences from our social partner, AdParlor.

From unparalleled targeting abilities to social media advertising, MNI Targeted Media Inc. has the resources needed to stay far away from Spray and Pray advertising and reach your consumers in a targeted way that excites and benefits them. Thank you, Facebook, for the Mother’s Day gift idea and healthy meal subscription!
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