An exposé published by The Guardian and The New York Times in mid-March 2018 revealed that 50 million Facebook profiles had been harvested for the London-based elections consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a number that was later revised upwards to 87 million. Facebook has since released a steady stream of statements and updates involving changes to tighten app permissions and privacy controls, which also happened to coincide with measures complying with GDPR, the EU’s data protection framework.
Fall-out from Cambridge Analytica
Surprisingly for some observers, Facebook ended up weathering the storm quite well. According to a client note from Goldman Sachs, time spent on Facebook actually increased during the subsequent outbreak of the scandal, with Facebook’s US unique users on mobile rising 7% year-on-year to 188.6 million in April. What the debacle did result in was an alteration of how advertisers do targeting on Facebook as a result of the deprecation of partner categories. Because advertisement targeting through the use of third-party providers has now become far less granular, companies are turning to Facebook’s own proprietary targeting options as an alternative.
New ways of doing things
Facebook is also beginning to recognize that advertisers want to be more sophisticated with their Facebook dollars. Instead of throwing everything into a newsfeed with its extremely wide 18-49 age range target, Facebook is concentrating on the advancement of its specific direct response ads, including dynamic product ads allowing for cross-sell and upsell functionalities.
Whilst traditional advertisers are still redirecting spend away from TV to Facebook, others are sitting up and noticing the newer platforms on the scene. Because Facebook risks losing key demographics in terms of the younger generation, advertisers are beginning to turn to the likes of Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Some also speculate that there will be a massive opportunity with the Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp messaging apps in the next 3-5 years, including the potential to automate product response information and augment messaging with brand capabilities. There’s even talk about advertising in immersive reality on forthcoming VR platforms. Advertisements of the future are coming soon to an Oculus Rift near you.
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