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Facebook: That ad is not actually targeted

The social network is allegedly cracking down on ads that look like they're specifically targeted to members but are generic.

Facebook is making moves to crack down on ads that look like they're finely targeted but really aren't, some digging by marketing blog ClickZ revealed Monday.

You've probably seen these ads: they make it look like they're geared to you ("28, female, and living in Boston? Try this..."), but the rest of the message and the product itself are actually fairly generic. According to ClickZ, Facebook has built an "evaluation program, part automated and part human" to give the thumbs-down to ads "featuring user attributes that are deemed irrelevant to the actual offer."

A Facebook representative told ClickZ, "The quality of ads is important to us, and we're always going to take steps to make sure that people on Facebook see the best ads." CNET has contacted Facebook to find out whether the company has anything more to say about it--or has formally modified its Advertising Guidelines document.

Facebook keeps close tabs on what happens on its self-service advertising platform, in which advertisers can choose to target their ads based on criteria contained in member profiles: gender, age, location, favorite movies and music, and so forth.

It wasn't long ago that social networks were considered poor destinations for advertisements, and Facebook is undoubtedly still aware of the stigma that it has miraculously shaken off. However, if members keep seeing ads that they deem spammy or irrelevant, they will ignore them. And enough negative buzz could make the Facebook Ad lose its anointed spot in the marketing world.

But ClickZ reported that it heard a "fairly large queue of advertisers had called Facebook either to get explanation on the policy changes or to complain," indicating that some of them are wondering why this apparent change has gone into effect. Facebook may indeed be losing some smaller advertisers as a result, but they're seemingly not the advertisers that Facebook wants.

Early last month, Facebook announced that traditional banner advertisements would be disappearing from its site and that it would focus almost exclusively on "engagement ads" and the self-serve targeted ads.