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Facebook boosts ad targeting with partner categories

With 500 unique categories, such as cereal buyers and frozen food buyers, the social network creates more ways for advertisers and agencies to specifically target users' online buying habits.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Ever amping up new ways for advertisers to engage with users, Facebook began rolling out a new feature today that doubles down on the social network's use of ad targeting.

Dubbed "partner categories," Facebook's new feature aims to target ads to more categories of people. These categories use data from third parties, such as Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, to glean information about what users buy on the Web.

Here's more from a Facebook blog post:

For example, a local car dealership can now show ads to people who are likely in the market for a new car who live near their dealership. To date, advertisers have been able to show ads to people based on their expressed interests on Facebook. Now with partner categories, they can also show ads to people on Facebook based on the products and brands they buy across both desktop and mobile.

Example of the cereal buyers partner category. Facebook
Facebook swears that no personal information is shared with the social network, third parties, or advertisers. It says that companies have used this type of targeting off of Facebook for years and that "partner categories work the same way all targeting on Facebook works."

Just last month, the social network began testing a dicey advertising feature that let advertisers and agencies use Facebook Exchange (FBX) to serve retargeted ads on users' News Feeds. These retargeted ads take into account people's browsing behavior outside Facebook, as captured through cookies, with the aim of offering up messages about products they've already shown interest in.

While FBX on News Feed is great for advertisers and fantastic for Facebook, especially as it's under pressure to boost revenue, it's a risky maneuver that could remind users that they're always being watched. Consumer retargeted ads have been around for years, but it's the prime News Feed real estate that could throw some users off.

It's unclear if ads using partner categories will also be displayed in users' News Feeds. So far, Facebook says that partner categories already include more than 500 unique groups, such as car buyers, cereal buyers, and frozen food buyers.

"Ads that are well targeted benefit the advertisers who run them by driving higher return on investment and are a better experience for people who see more relevant ads," Facebook wrote.