Facebook is Giving Users More Control On What Ads They See


As ad blockers rise, Facebook announced that they’re blocking ad-blockers in favor of providing more user controls over what ads they see. It’s a change that challenges marketers to target their ads better but also a step in positioning ads less as a necessary evil and more of a utility. There’s also one big change that should definitely keep marketers honest.


Individual ads have an option that when selected will provide an explanation as to why that particular ad was delivered to them. It’s available on all ads and accessible by clicking the chevron in the top right corner of the ad and then clicking on “Why Am I Seeing This Ad?” I tried it out on the first ad I saw in my News Feed, which was an ad for an upcoming Wye Oak concert in Austin.


The explanation given in the About This Facebook Ad box was more detailed than I’d anticipated. It directly states that because I like Courtney Barnett, likely inferred from being connected to her Facebook Page, I was targeted by the advertiser. I’m left to infer that the advertiser figures Wye Oak is a similar enough artist that I may want to catch live. Whether or not that is true is debatable but rather than thinking of this as just a traditional commercial it reads more like a recommendation engine.

While the About This Facebook Ad box works on a micro level, it also links to the new and improved Ads Preferences tool that provides a high level view into what targeting interests a user falls into and provides the option to opt out of being targeted by that interest.


I tried this myself and added up that I had about 1,200 interests that I could be targeted against. I took some time to remove some of them that were no longer really pertinent. For instance, under the Sports & Outdoors category, I found that I was targetable against “Planking(fad)”, which is something I haven’t thought about in like 5 years.

Also, remember Planking?

Before I digress, I’ve saved the biggest change for last. Ads Preferences now includes a section title Advertisers. For the first time ever, Facebook is tattling and giving users transparency into what advertisers have them targetable as part of a Custom Audience and providing the same opportunity to opt out as the Interests section. Facebook has never had control of truly enforcing its Terms of Service for usage of Custom Audiences and any bad actors that have been flouting the terms and using information they didn’t acquire firsthand are now outed. When I tried this myself, there were ten advertisers with my information and only one that should have reasonably had my information. I did look into the questionable advertisers and none of them had anything I would be remotely interested in so I removed them, which is actually doing them a favor.

It’s rare that something is a win-win for both advertisers and users but it looks like Facebook is betting that more transparency will win out against ad-blockers. So far, I like their odds.