Facebook Advertising Targeting Changes: What Healthcare Marketers Need to Know

• Author: Emerging Media Team

hc insights - Facebook Advertising Targeting Changes

Facebook’s new advertising targeting restrictions have been a hot topic since Meta first announced the changes last fall. The limitations went into effect for new campaigns on January 19, 2022, and will impact all active and future advertising campaigns beginning late March 2022.

We spoke with Media Logic’s Director of Media Integration, Patrick Boegel, about the implications of the changes for healthcare companies and what advertisers can do to optimize targeting going forward.

What targeting options are changing?

The big change relates to ‘interest’-based targeting, which leverages the interests that people have signaled over time through their actions on Facebook, whether from page likes or events. Facebook is removing specific topics within the “Detailed Targeting” category, including health, like select awareness, prevention, and treatment topics; religious beliefs; sexual orientations; political affiliations; and race and ethnicity.

Advertisers can still target broadly for criteria like location; basic demographics like gender and age; and some interests that people choose to share on their profiles.

What is the expected impact of the change?

The impact of this change will vary based on how reliant the advertiser is on interest-based targeting. For example, in the past for insurance companies that sell Medicare plans, we’ve selected people based on demographics and geography plus their interests in topics such as retirement planning, financial planning — things like that. Those interests add some color to the overall campaign as we can target and message accordingly. Given the recent change, we will lose that extra color but not our ability to successfully reach our audience by using other targeting parameters. So, for Medicare marketing, this isn’t a huge hit.

On the other hand, for a healthcare advertiser that is targeting based primarily on interests in the treatment and prevention of health conditions, the impact will be significant.

What are the broad implications of these changes for advertisers?

The changes make proprietary data and custom lists more important than ever. Without your first-party data or approved third-party data, the change will limit targeting to basic demographics and geography. With your own data, you can upload custom lists as well as generate lookalike lists; you just have to abide by certain rules. Now, companies will want to work even harder to drive people to their websites to enhance their data pool. This may make it necessary for companies to reconsider what they offer in exchange for consumers filling out forms online, because that personal information is even more valuable for marketing purposes now.

So, retargeting is still allowed in the new restrictions?

Yes. There are no limits on anything we can do from a retargeting standpoint or a targeting standpoint, as long as we use our own data. Facebook is basically removing the data it has accumulated and is no longer allowing advertisers to use that. We have to go out and get data on our own.

Where can advertisers get that data?

Advertisers can get the data in several ways. They can collect it when visitors come to the website by having people fill out a form with information like their names and email addresses. Advertisers can also purchase the data based on the specifications they are looking for — say, parents in their 40s whose kids are starting to look at colleges. Advertisers can also use Facebook’s Conversions API tool, which we’ll talk about later, to keep track of and analyze website visitors.

Is this going to affect the creative development process? How?

It should only impact creative if we don’t have custom audience lists. With custom lists, the ad copy can be more specific. For example, we could say things that are really clear about a dual-eligible plan rather than talking more generally about Medicare Advantage plans. If we don’t have custom audiences, we have to be more general. Then, the creative copy has to be something like, “See our many plans including dual eligibility” or “Dual eligibility is one of our many offerings.”

Do you think Facebook users will notice a change in the ads being served to them?

It’s hard to say what people notice and don’t notice now, but I don’t think it will make a huge difference in the end users’ perception. It’s just going to add more leg work on advertisers’ part to figure out how to get their information to the right people at the right time. Even before the changes, we saw examples of people wondering why they were seeing certain ads, but I think that’s always going to happen. When you’re doing this kind of targeting, it’s never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be data imperfection.

Should advertisers use Facebook’s Conversions API?

Yes. Facebook’s Conversions API will allow data to flow into Google Analytics and be curated in a more useful way. It will enable us to segment why some people click on some ads and fill out landing pages versus others. Right now, we get more of a lump sum deliverable rather than a detailed breakout of data. Facebook has been encouraging advertisers to adopt the Conversions API, and we are trying to get there as quickly as possible. We will roll it out during New-to-Medicare for as many clients as possible and then be ready to use it for everyone by AEP.

How is the Conversions API different from the Meta [Facebook] pixel?

The pixel is the simplified version. It worked very well until the iOS 14 privacy changes, which allow people to opt-out of the pixel tracking. Everything on the pixel that is set as a standard data capture is estimated at this point, like if somebody clicks on an ad, it tells you the percent likelihood that they follow through and fill out forms. The Conversions API allows you to fine-tune and hone in on the level of detail. It’s a more detailed curation of information.

We hope this answers your most pressing questions about the ad targeting changes on Facebook. Media Logic offers a full complement of marketing services to help elevate your health insurance marketing strategy. If you’re interested in learning more, contact Jim McDonald, Head of Strategic Growth, at 518-940-4882.