An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg

black-black-pencil-black-and-white-750913.jpgBy Inez Zimakowski, media director, Edge, Sydney

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

Things are a bit of a mess right now for Facebook and, because of your platform's incredible, pervasive reach, for marketers across the globe. It's the data disaster we all knew was coming, but flatly refused to plan for.

Those of us who have been using your data, your audience tools, analysis, and advertising have always known the scale of what's available, what users have signed away, and just how much you really know about us all. We used it to our advantage to personalise the ads we sent out and hit the right person with the right message at the exact right time, so that content was genuinely relevant to them. We did this to sell product, drive awareness, disseminate news and information and, yes, to influence those who saw our content into doing something.

When you purchased Instagram it was a great moment for us marketers - finally we'd get to advertise on that amazingly creative platform, connect with a new and growing set of users, and get even more data about brand preferences, interests, and demographics.
And when Messenger ads became available? Hell yeah, we finally had the ability to start one-to-one conversations with potential customers. Perfect.

In March it all started to unravel when full details of the Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged. Then you appeared in front of Congress and things got worse. You were asked questions by 'experts' who didn't know that Facebook made its money from ads, and that no, you can't email in WhatsApp. Just last week you were in Europe to face the EU representatives and their barrage of questions, though luckily this time it was behind closed doors.

When the data scandal happened, we knew there would be a response. But we weren't prepared for an API change on this scale. Hundreds of apps lost access, including ads reporting tools, live streaming plug-ins, games, and scheduling tools. I'm sure our data analysts weren't the only ones affected, but boy did we feel it.

Just when we thought the worst was over and things were getting back to normal, it was announced that Facebook was ditching its Partner Categories, and kissing third-party data goodbye. No longer will we be able to talk to mortgage holders, or credit card holders, renters, or those who regularly donate to charity, about the products, brands, or dying rhinos they are likely to be interested in.

To a non-marketer, it makes sense to get rid of them. The fact that we can target people based on their purchase behaviour could be concerning. I get it. But the data is secure and most importantly, anonymous. We cannot see who the ad is going to, I don't know if my ad has been served to Betty down the road, or Chris Hemsworth, heck maybe you've even seen one of them. But I wouldn't know it unless you told me yourself. It's that anonymity that protects your users - I couldn't decide to target any single person no matter what criteria I pop into Ads Manager. The platform just doesn't work that way. I guess I could try to get Facebook Support to send me John Kennedy's file but the reality is that it would never happen and, as a Facebook user myself, I wouldn't want it to.

What no one is talking about and what no agency wants to admit, is that we've all been affected - the media agencies perhaps worst of all - with the loss of Partner Categories, a new blow that will soon hit as the categories are removed over the next six months. For the brands who use this data, many perhaps unknowingly, I'd be having a chat with your social or media agency about their plans for the next year.

For us, we've just gotten a lot more creative in the way we target audiences and the channels we use. Facebook might be the biggest platform out there, but it isn't the only one.

At the end of the day, there's so much data out there it really isn't funny. All our bank details, medical records, credit cards, emails, employment info, photos, and life stories are online. And we can't just pull a Vision and destroy it all. Unless you've never opened an email account, shared a photo, done a Google search, applied for a job, or opened a bank account, data about you exists online. So we have to find a way to accept that it's going to be used and sometimes shared, because we said it could be. As one of the biggest tech companies in the world all Facebook can do is anonymise it and keep it safe. If people choose not to read the terms and conditions that's on them.

A quick note to Congress, if you're worried about Facebook you should definitely go bother Google next, and Snapchat (they have a LOT more ahem,  'personal' pictures than Facebook ever will). Actually, let's just shut down the internet. That'll solve it.

A fan.


Unsub said:


Lol said:

This is dumb.

Normal people deserve to know what information is being collected, and how it's being used.

Of course stuff will be collected, but there needs to be transparency to the end user. Until big tech can work out a way to do this properly (not just jargon-filled T&Cs), I'm all for them turning partner and third-party categories off. Marketers be damned.

Yo said:

As Media Director you probably should know partner categories were removed last Friday.

Unsubscribe said:

Delete account. Easy.

@Yo said:

If you’re gonna call someone out - you probably should know that the 24th was the UK, Germany, France date, and that Partner Categories are still available elsewhere until July & October.

@@Yo said:

Nice work. Short. Sweet and oh so damning.

Inez, well written piece. A bundle of stuff I don't agree with but your point is well made.

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