In the ongoing battle to abolish third-party pixels and cookies, another digital advertising giant took a big step in reestablishing how companies track your online profile and habits.

Facebook’s recent introduction of a first-party pixel solution to their ad platform is geared towards the online ad industry minimizing the “gum on your shoe” capabilities of third-party ad cookies. Browsers have soured on the use of third-party cookie tracking that follows user behavior beyond Facebook, and onto other digital platforms and sites. Facebook’s decision to incorporate a first-party pixel solution comes a year after digital giants Google and Microsoft (Bing) rolled out their own first-party pixel solutions.

This change certainly isn’t a “run of the mill settings update” for Facebook business owners. If you’re lucky enough to have a good Facebook account manager or an additional digital partner who you can use as a resource, task them with explaining and assisting in this update. If you work with a savvy digital agency (we’d like to shamelessly plug the amazing services of Trellis if you don’t! Facebook is a monster of evolution, and here at Trellis we are very in-tune with the volatility and constant updating of the Facebook ads platform.), this is an update that really requires the guidance of a professional. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with how you choose to track ad activity, so take the time to understand this change and task a professional with assistance.

With that…

What are the core differences between first and third party tracking options?

The first party option will continue to allow advertisers to serve dynamic ad elements based on user behavior on Facebook, Instagram and partner networks. Ad approaches such as retargeting previous site visitors or serving dynamic ads from products users engaged with, will continue to benefit advertisers.

Gone will be the more intrusive capabilities of third party cookies that can track user behavior beyond Facebook. The move to first-party cookie options for Facebook, Google and Microsoft is in response to the growing discomfort with online user privacy (in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica debaucle earlier this year). Browser kingpins like Safari and Firefox have already been blocking third-party tracking since last year that searches cross-site user behavior. One benefit to this change for advertisers is that both Safari and Firefox allow for first-party tracking options, giving advertisers access to behavioral user data on these two widely-used browsers.

How does the first-party Facebook pixel work?

In this new first-party ad environment, when a user clicks on a Facebook ad a unique string is appended to the site URL. This string is added to the user’s browser, allowing event data to be passed back to Facebook for ad targeting and analytics purposes. The big difference? Returned profile data to Facebook is specific to that site you clicked through to. The tracking buck stops there, thus removing third-party “nesting” into browser data that follows a user’s behavior across other multiple platforms and sites.

The third-party (in this case, Facebook) will no longer be allowed to append their own unique tracking that captures and collects cross-platform data beyond Facebook.

How should advertisers deal with this change?

Starting on October 5th, 2018, business are now able to set their default pixel option to either first-party or third-party. A bigger day comes on October 24th, the deadline day for advertisers to opt-out of using the first-party pixel as their default tracking option for all newly-created pixels. Fear not, advertisers. Even after October 24th, Facebook advertisers will be able to change which pixel option they choose to run their ads with. It’s important to note that if you continue to use the third-party pixel, Facebook still hasn’t fully clarified how they plan to solve for being able to “estimate” conversion tracking from Firefox and Safari, which to say the least, is an inexact science.

A reminder to engage your agency or Facebook account manager. Asking questions like: How will this impact my ad performance? What does this change mean in the long run for third-party pixels? Will my ad performance suffer by not being able to utilize the benefits of third-party cross-platform traffic? Also, feel free to ask us questions in the “comments” section about how this change can impact overall performance.

Stay tuned as we follow this change!

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