Is Facebook's advertising too aggressive?

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Earlier this week Facebook announced that it is trialling the expansion of its ad targeting system, in the social network’s latest effort to build out its advertising business - and some are pretty peeved by its decision, even going so far as to suggest the social network should expect a user backlash.

The move would see the expansion of Facebook Exchange - the advertising system that enables marketers to tailor messages to users based on their browsing history - from the graphical display ads on the side of the user’s page to the ads in its news feed.

To Facebook, this makes plenty of sense, connecting two of its latest advertising innovations in a bid to boost the company’s revenue – something it has been working hard at since it went public in May last year. But others are less enthused by it.

Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus, believes it is a monetising attempt that has gone too far. Faida highlights that while these adverts previously sat on the right hand side of the page, out of the direct eye-line of the user, the proposed updates, which are currently being trialled, will see these targeted adverts sit within the news feed of the site, “disguised” in between the users’ friends and family updates. 

“The Facebook news feed is the place where users will usually spend most of their time on the site,” says Faida. “This makes it a gold mine of an opportunity for marketers, but users simply will not take to advertising as aggressive as this, especially on a site in which is used for very personal purposes and is so trusted.

“Facebook has become such an integrated part of many people’s lives and the trust level in the site is extraordinarily high. Through the Facebook Exchange ads, the site is taking advantage of its users and their trust through allowing such targeted advertising towards them.”

Faida points to recent research from Adblock Plus that suggests there is a direct link between more intrusive advertising and user frustration. Over two thirds (69%) of respondents to a survey in the UK said that online advertising had become more intrusive over the last two years.

“Marketers need to address this issue and ensure that they do not alienate users, as they are clearly doing so currently," he says. "This move from Facebook would suggest that users frustration will only grow. Unfortunately, there are still very many internet users who are unaware of the intrusiveness they encounter online and it’s not fair to these people to target them so aggressively. Those who are aware of tracking and aggressive marketing techniques will not be happy about this move and Facebook will see a backlash from its users.

“The Facebook Exchange ads in the news feed section of the site is in a trail stage – I only hope that through this, users express their feelings about it and Facebook realises that this is not a step the users want to see go ahead.”

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