Other advertisers have expressed alarm over Facebook’s plan to remove the so-called “partner categories” on its site. These categories enable advertisers to direct ads to people based on data collected by outside companies, including their purchasing habits in physical stores and profiles like “big-city moms.”
Facebook said that the change would improve user privacy. But it has also resulted in a perhaps counterintuitive lesson for marketers: several are devising new ways to build up their own customer data lists out of concern that they were too reliant on Facebook for such information.
One executive gave a hypothetical example of a jam brand that had been targeting ads on Facebook through shopping habits based on outside company data. That company might now set up a recipe site and create a newsletter to distribute great recipes every week. They could also make a loyalty program with peanut butter and jelly points, a children’s site and an iJam app, collecting customer data from each.
Mr. Montgomery said that he did not expect people to migrate from Facebook en masse.
“The major question we’ve asked together of ourselves and our clients is will this affect user engagement on the platform, and we haven’t seen any of that yet,” he said. “At the end of the day, what really counts is whether the users will value the utility of Facebook over the privacy missteps.”
If people stop using Facebook in significant numbers, it will test the patience of advertisers, who have had a fraught relationship with the social network. The main points of contention have been the amount of data that advertisers can access on the platform and issues around how ad performance is measured. Facebook is aiming to soothe them while it sorts through a very public problem.
“There may have been sellers in media that maybe got the benefit of doubt when something went wrong — when you get discretion, relationships matter, perceptions of the media brand matter,” said Brian Wieser, a media analyst at Pivotal Research. “But with Facebook, I feel like a common refrain I’ve heard is that user trends go down, that’s going to have ramifications.”
Yet Ms. Everson has received many public messages of support and praise for her leadership on Twitter and on her Facebook page from agency executives and chief marketing officers, including those at General Electric and Toys “R” Us.
In one of her emails to advertisers last month, which a recipient shared with The New York Times, Ms. Everson said it was important to remember that Facebook’s mission was unchanged. It was still the same company, she said, that is “bringing connectivity to remote areas of the world” and that “gives people a voice and enables the movements that are changing the world.” She concluded by saying, “Thank you so very much for your continued partnership.”