POV: Facebook Kills Sponsored Stories

MINDSHARE POINT OF VIEW – Those of us that use Facebook on a regular basis would have experienced ads on our newsfeeds revealing actions taken by our friends e.g. ‘Rachel likes Topshop’. For a male, this would probably seem irrelevant and equally, having your own picture and name attached to an advert on a friend’s newsfeed may be considered a breach of privacy.

Last Thursday, Facebook made an announcement which could see an end to these issues – by April 9th, the Sponsored stories ad format will be cut. This comes as part of an effort announced in June last year to streamline Facebook’s ad functions. Previously, Sponsored stories and page post ads were served separately; however, in future the best of both formats will be combined into one single unit.


Sponsored Stories have proved a problem for Facebook in the past, eventually leading to a $20 million class-action lawsuit over the fact that users never consented to their names and profile pictures being featured on sponsored stories. This may have induced the cut, but officially Facebook are saying this new ad format is simply a continued streamlining of their advertising offerings.

In actual fact, not all that much is going to change. Wherever possible, ads will continue to include social context (your friend liked/commented on the post, or liked the page); the only difference being that you will no longer be able to create an ad with social context as the sole purpose, content will have to take center stage. Furthermore, users will be given full control over who sees what activity, with the ability to unlike or delete the content at any time. In addition, there will be the option to limit when stories about social actions are paired with ads shown to friends, using  the ‘ads and friends’ setting.

As part of these changes, Facebook has redefined its targeting functions as having four key areas (locations, demographics, interests, behaviours). This organization creates more flexibility and precision when reaching audiences in terms of the and/or logic between groups. Historically, for example, if you selected “Parents”, “Photography”, “Photo uploader” within interests, the audience constructed was for people that are Parents OR interested in Photography OR People who upload [many] Photos. However, the intended audience was: “Parents that are interested in Photography and upload Photos”. Now, the specific audience can be targeted as intended.


The purging of Sponsored Stories comes as part of Facebook’s attempt to make advertising on its platform more streamlined and relevant. Brands will importantly still be able to maintain social context, but marketers will have to rely increasingly on content rather than using the sole power of friend advocacy.