Most of us won’t remember the first ad we saw on the Internet, but I’m certain it was a bad ad. For me, it was probably while browsing the Web from within the walled garden of America Online, when the Internet was still in its infancy. It might have even been an ad for Bonzi Buddy. Whatever it was, it was certain to have flashed with seizure-inducing reds and greens. It probably blocked some of the content I was hoping to read with a pop-up. I almost certainly clicked it.
For those of us who browsed in the early part of the last decade, Internet advertising has a negative connotation. As a tech-savvy early adopter of the Internet, I assumed that if I did elect to “slap the monkey to win a prize,” I’d probably be installing a virus or some other malware on my computer. I distinctly remember having to completely wipe my computer to remove Bonzi Buddy from it.
The world of digital advertising has changed since then.
Now, everyone involved in the advertising ecosystem has a vested interest in delivering you better advertising, because:
- The advertiser pays per click, and if their product is a scam, you won’t buy it.
- The publisher earns per click, so they want to serve you ads you’ll click on and enjoy.
- You prefer seeing interesting, relevant products that could make a difference in your life or career.
The result is actually markedly different from the digital advertising ecosystem of yesteryear.
How does this all blend in to create the perfect digital advertising ecosystem?
Better products and better targeting.
First, let’s address better products. With the rampant culture of innovation that’s alive and well in America, no matter what problem you’re having, there’s someone out there that’s solving it. But, because most of these companies eschew (or can’t afford) national advertising campaigns, these solutions become very granular. Products are built for a very specific, niche audience, and because there are so many people from around the world on the Web, good products can find the niche audience they’re meant to reach (just see this bit from Ricky Gervais). Just like you’ve never heard of some of the best software I use every day as a digital advertising professional, I’ve never heard of most of the software you use. We each adopt a combination of platforms that make our jobs and lives easier.
Let’s use a product to illustrate this. I’ve created this fantastic organic granola that also contains bits of beef jerky. The next step is for the marketer to clearly define their target audience. This is not a mass-market product. Only a cross-section of the population, say hiking fanatics who like organic food but aren’t vegetarian, would be interested in my new product. How do I go out and reach just these people?
This is where we get into the second aspect of the digital advertising ecosystem: better targeting. One of the best places to put ads like this would be Facebook, because it allows me to reach people who have specified certain characteristics about themselves that fit into my target market. I might elect to send Facebook ads to people who like REI or other camping equipment stores, who also like certain organic food brands or are members of organic gardening groups, who are definitely NOT in a vegetarian group!
As an advertiser, this means that a computer technician from New York City who couldn’t care less about the outdoors won’t ever see my advertisement. That’s fine with me, since I’m not going to sell enough products to that market to justify my cost. As a publisher, I want my algorithms to promote this kind of listing to the very top of the ad results for someone who hits all the key points that I’ve specified, as this is a very relevant ad placement. As a consumer, a beef-jerky-organic-granola mix sounds fantastic to me, and I actually want to try it.
Now that we’ve established that better targeting advertisements are good for everyone involved, let’s talk about how we can start to build better targeted Facebook profiles so that advertisers and publishers know what kind of ads we’d be interested in seeing. It’s actually a straightforward process:
Like pages that interest you. Unlike pages that don’t interest you.
Let’s be a little more specific, though. Some types of advertisements are overpopulated on Facebook. Some of the biggest spenders on Facebook ads include:
- Zynga (Gaming)
- FAB.com (Retail)
- Electronic Arts (Gaming)
- Procter & Gamble (Fast-moving consumer goods)
- AT&T (Telecom)
- American Express/Experian (Financial Services)
- Microsoft/Google (Computers)
This is almost an exact cross-section of the biggest online advertising in general, which are:
- Financial Services
- Consumer packaged goods
You’re probably seeing ads from one or more of these categories right now, and they’re likely so ill-targeted to you that you’re never going to click them. These are the ads that people see when Facebook can’t deliver better-targeted advertising to them.
The way that we can get these junk advertisements off our screen and out of our lives is to allow the innovators with interesting products and services the targeting capabilities they require to reach us.
We can do this by being more explicit with the kinds of products and services we’re interested in seeing and by distancing ourselves from the kinds of advertisers that aren’t addressing our needs.
The Four Step Process Revealed
1. Remove all the Apps from your Facebook that aren’t relevant to you. This is simple to do. In your Facebook, click on the gear in the top-right corner and go to Privacy Settings. Click on Apps on the left navigation bar, then click Edit next to “Apps You Use.” By simply clicking “Turn Off Platform,” Facebook will completely rid your account of all apps. When it’s done, you can decide if you want to turn Apps back on with the “Turn On Platform” button. You can manually re-add any apps that you still use.
2. Leave your existing groups. In Facebook’s main navigation bar, scroll down to Groups and click on More. Leave any group that Facebook might be using to send targeted advertisements to you.
3. Unlike irrelevant pages. For me, all of the pages that I liked were found via my profile by clicking on More next to Timeline/About/Photos/Friends and going down to Likes. Then, I clicked on “Other Likes” on the top menu that shows up. From there, you can unlike pages that are irrelevant to your interests.
4. Now it’s time to fill up your profile with highly targeted, niche groups. If you visit the Facebook Pages site, you can see a great cross-section of pages of popular pages that advertisers are definitely using to target. The secret to this step is to, after you like a page, visit that page and hover the Like button, then deselect “Show In News Feed.” If you’re like me, you’re on Facebook to see stories from friends, not brands.
Simply by cleaning out your Facebook profile you can remove many of the unwanted advertisements that you’re already seeing, and by adding new interests and pages that are more relevant to the kind of offers you’d like to receive, we can create a better advertising ecosystem for advertisers, publishers, and consumers.
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!