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Facebook Insists 'Ethnic Affiliation' Marketing Tool Isn't Racial Profiling

© Photo : PixabayAfrican-American man
African-American man - Sputnik International
Facebook has developed marketing tools based on ethnicity, prompting concerns the social media giant is racially profiling its users to help advertisers.

Facebook's "ethnic affiliation" strategy offers advertisers four separate ethnic demographics that companies can promote their products to: non-multicultural, African American, Asian American and Hispanic and has been offering the service since 2014.

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It's since been revealed that Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about Las Angeles rap group N.W.A., was marketed online at different communities, depending on their ethnic demographic.

Universal's digital marketing team worked with Facebook to create two tailored Internet trailers for black and white audiences, based on what Facebook thought their ethnicity was and on what aspect of the movie Universal thought would resonate with the particular group.

Universal's marketing strategy for Straight Outta Compton was revealed during a panel discussion at South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas by representatives from Universal and Facebook. It was only after the discussion that reports emerged online, citing concerns that the strategy was based on racially profiling users.

The marketing teams predicted that white audiences would be more familiar with the actors and their acting careers – and not for their reputation as pioneering rap artists with N.W.A., whose debut album, Straight Outta Compton, was released in 1988. The trailer for the 'non-African American' and 'non-Hispanic' communities subsequently focused on the rise of Dre and Ice Cube, not the rap group.

But the online trailer targeting African-Americans and Hispanics presumed the audience were already very familiar with N.W.A. and swayed the trailer based on the rap group and its political art.

In a Facebook tutorial for advertisers quoted by Arts Technica, Facebook says: "The diversity of the US is more than an ethnic biodiversity. These groups of people have a rich diversity of culture, which can include many things, such as beliefs, traditions, music, aesthetics, or language. The people in the US who have demonstrated affinity for the cultures of these groups make up the US Multicultural Affinity audiences.

"The Facebook multicultural targeting solution is based on affinity, not ethnicity. This provides advertisers with an opportunity to serve highly relevant ad content to affinity-based audiences."

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