Spray and Pray Marketing vs. Targeted Ads

How Facebook Knows Exactly What It Is You Want.

Have you ever scrolled through Facebook and came across an ad and thought, “How in the world? I was just searching for this!”
We’ve all been there, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, I can guarantee it will soon. I was discussing Facebook ads with an international speaker last month, and he couldn’t believe how Facebook had practically sold him a $90,000 car. He was searching around car dealership websites with no intent to actually purchase a new car yet, and came across a Mercedes. He checked out all the photos and loved every detail of the luxury SUV, yet exited the page because it was not time for a new car. He then proceeded to Facebook to check up on some posts from his friends and family and right in the middle of his news feed, he sees an advertisement of that exact model. Within a couple hours it was his, papers signed, and he was rolling home with a new vehicle. How did Facebook know what we wanted?



Imagine you’re sitting at home on your phone and you see an ad pop up for 50% off Six Flags Great Adventure, yet you’re terrified of heights. Picture yourself on Amazon trying to find a new cooking pot when you see an advertisement for Jack’s Barbecue Ribs Joint…but you’re vegetarian. Would you even glance at those ads twice? No—most likely, you completely ignore them. This type of advertising is known as Spray and Pray and it is a complete waste of marketing dollars.

Spray and Pray advertising relies solely on the notion of numbers. If a marketer sends out 10,000 generic emails and receives ten responses, then they’ve done their job. This quantity-over-quality mentality affects consumers’ perception of the brand, and runs the risk of negatively impacting retention numbers and purchase rates. I, and I know I’m not alone, am guilty of unsubscribing from email notifications because I couldn’t stand my inbox getting filled with emails unrelated to my interests. Just because I purchased a gift for my mother 3 years ago does not mean I am still interested in Vera Bradley…in fact, I can’t stand those patterns! I fall into the 84% of high volume sensitive consumers who unsubscribe from email lists because of the insanely high amount of emails unrelated to me. That’s just an example of the damage done by “Spray and Pray” through emails.

The patience that consumers used to have for Spray and Pray advertising is practically nonexistent today. So, how do companies shift from relying on Spray and Pray advertising to a more customized strategy? One way is by conducting targeted advertising research to assure that your message gets in front of consumers that will actually be interested in your product or service. Another method that is happily experiencing the snowball effect is customized social media advertising—my favorite kind of advertising.



I would be hard-pressed to name one person who isn’t on social media, ok except for my mom because she hates anything that puts her name out there. With that being said, the amount of people who are not on social media is so low that the popularity of advertising on social media is undisputed. People go online to relax and scroll around aimlessly, reading updates from friends and family they haven’t spoken to in years or stalking their celebrity crush. They don’t want to be pestered with advertisements that are unrelated to them, and social media platforms are aware of this, which is why targeted ads are the answer.



As evident in my personal experience, Facebook offers advertisers the opposite of Spray and Pray. It wasn’t just luck that the international speaker saw the ad of his new $90,000 luxury car. On the contrary, that was the result of Facebook zeroing in on his reading, shopping, and clicking habits. Want another example?

When I was first starting out, I was researching online marketing techniques all day long. A few days after visiting tons of websites, I was served an advertisement for the exact service I was looking for, a course to go further in depth on social media marketing. Facebook, using targeting and data technology, read my mind. I signed up for a mentor that day who I had never even heard of,  and learned so much throughout the next 4 months all thanks to Facebook.

I’m not the only one who responds to targeting ads on Facebook and other social media outlets, and I’m definitely not the only one who appreciates these ads over Spray and Pray, either. More than half of individuals aged 18-24 prefer to be served ads that relate to a product or service they want or need, and the consensus is that Facebook does it best3.

So, what’s the secret to Facebook’s micro-targeted ads? The method to this madness?

The answer is: The Facebook Pixel. Unlike usual advertising data that helps to target your audience based on age and gender—which don’t get me wrong, can be incredibly beneficial—the Facebook Pixel goes the extra mile and keeps track of your online activity: past purchases, what you read, etc. Once you leave Facebook, this incredibly valuable pixel follows you around, collecting information that will help tailor the ads you see on Facebook more and more until you’re smiling at your computer screen and pulling out your credit card because you found what you’ve been wanting all along!

From unparalleled targeting abilities to social media advertising, Elevance has the resources and experts needed to stay far away from this “Spray and Pray” method and reach your consumers in a way that excites and benefits them.






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