Facebook expands ad targeting, will let partners show ads based on web activity

Facebook(s fb) has further refined its ad-targeting capabilities, announcing on Wednesday the launch of “partner categories.” This new feature will allow advertisers to target more specific groups of people on Facebook and serve them ads based on their activity across the web, rather than just their activity on Facebook, using data from third-party providers.

It’s no secret that Facebook is working to build out its platform as an advertising service, slowly increasing the types of ads that different companies can buy and the ways in which they can target specific groups of people on the site.

The company explained what this will look like from a consumer perspective in the blog post published Wednesday morning:

“For example, a local car dealership can now show ads to people who are likely in the market for a new car who live near their dealership. To date, advertisers have been able to show ads to people based on their expressed interests on Facebook. Now with partner categories, they can also show ads to people on Facebook based on the products and brands they buy across both desktop and mobile.”

Three companies — Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon — will provide the user data for the ad-targeting, and Facebook wrote that it will not exchange user data with those third-parties or the advertisers, just basic demographic information about the groups advertisers are selling to. The project will launch initially with 500 different categories that advertisers can target, like “frozen food buyers” or “full-size sedan buyers.”

Jeff Roberts wrote recently about the company’s goals when it comes to advertising, and how the company will have to balance its efforts to make money with both concerns from privacy advocates about how user data is being appropriated, and also user distaste with ads filling their feeds:

In short, Facebook appears well on its way to create a marketers’ paradise and a torrent of ad revenues. But there are still two factors that could scuttle these plans. The first is the familiar spectre of increased privacy regulation – but that is a threat Facebook and others like Google  have so far swatted away successfully. Instead, the larger peril may be the prospect of too much advertising undermining Facebook’s user experience and its vaunted design.

Here’s an example of the kinds of targeting the launch will allow:

Facebook partner categories ad targeting