Meta Expands Age Targeting Restrictions

Have you heard about Meta’s continued work to age-appropriate their ad experience?

New limitations have been put in place for those wanting to target under 18s on Facebook and Instagram. Marketers who seek to reach the teen demographic can now only target based on age and location.

This isn’t the first time changes of this nature have been made. Back in 2021, Meta implemented age targeting restrictions which meant that under 18s could no longer be targeted based on interests and activities.

To understand the implications of these changes, we spoke to Adgen’s Director of Digital Marketing, Graham Rowbottom.

Graham, what do you think of these new age targeting restrictions?

I suppose there’s putting two hats on. From a marketing perspective and as an agency it makes our lives more difficult. We’re predominantly a youth marketing agency so lots of the campaigns we are running are targeted towards that audience. The fact that we can’t target teens specifically makes it difficult to optimise our campaigns and maximise their efficiency.

However, on the flip side of that, putting on a more conscious hat as a parent you understand the reasons why it’s done. Ethically I think it’s a positive thing and it’s an action that will be followed by a lot of other social media platforms and marketing channels as well.

Why do you think Meta are implementing these age targeting restrictions now?

It’s a knock-on effect of lots of things. They’ve obviously come under pressure from the general population, certain governing bodies, charities and other pressure groups across the world.

The pressure has come from the fact that people are more aware of their digital privacy and their web behaviour, particularly across social media platforms. I think there are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, there’s now a generation that have grown up with the internet and are now in more powerful positions that can put pressure on social media agencies. There’s also been a lot more of it in the news with the introduction of GDPR in the UK, a big story that impacted how aware people are of their rights and how data is used. There is also the topic of fake news becoming a bigger issue. It’s been impacted by the US elections, the Trump administration, and the knock-on effect of the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal.

With Meta being the highest profile platform, all these factors have highlighted the importance of age-appropriating ads for teens.

Graham Rowbottom
Director of Digital Marketing

Off the back of these age targeting restrictions, have any clients come to you with concerns? How is this impacting the strategies you’re proposing?

Obviously clients are going to be concerned, particularly if they were running campaigns in the past to teens through Facebook or Instagram. This isn’t necessarily knock on effect of the removal of gender targeting, but more so the removal of behavioural and interest targeting. If they were running campaigns before 2021 that were very effective and now they’re not seeing the same results, then obviously there’s concerns from the client in that regard.

Equally I think it’s still an effective channel. Even though specific targeting is not available, the same audience to an extent is still there. Facebook and Instagram are still the two largest social media platforms out there, so we want to use them to target teens, but the effectiveness of those campaigns is harder to maintain.

Off the back of that, we as an agency and the clients need to start looking at what other channels are available out there to reach the same audience, using the techniques that possibly we could have used pre-targeting changes.

What do you think this signals for the future and what do you think will happen next?

I think other social media platforms and digital channels will follow suit and take the same path Meta have taken. This will be the case for both new channels and more established ones.

I still think teens will continue to use Instagram in particular. It’s still a hugely popular channel. Although we can’t be as targeted as we were 12-18 months ago, I think it’s a channel that we should be using and recommending to reach that audience. Just supplementing that with other marketing channels. Other channels such as display targeting and different affiliates can help us create more precise targeting. Equally, we are talking about ad formats here, so with more organic and with the right messaging, you’d still reach the correct audience and deliver and achieve your objectives.

This also highlights the importance of creative and messaging because, where we could overcompensate the creative and messaging by using a targeted ad strategy, we no longer can. It’s really important that the message and call to action is very clear so when that is put in front of the audience, they engage with the call to action. I think that that’s really important.