Why aren’t my Facebook ads converting? How Europe’s ePrivacy Directive affects advertising this Black Friday and beyond

If your brand saw a sharp decline in Facebook ad conversions over the past few month, you’re not alone. Before you chalk it up to the latest data privacy updates from the likes of Google and Apple, it’s worth checking to see if it could be because of Facebook’s latest response to the ePrivacy Directive in Europe. 

With the iOS 14.5 update and the so-called Privacy Sandbox, Apple and Google are changing the way they track cookies and collect data, and Facebook has recently joined their efforts. Now, European brands are feeling the effects.

The updates will mean that brands can’t track cookies for consumers who don’t opt-in, which means they can’t capture relevant data to use in campaigns. Less effective targeting and tracking lead to fewer conversions, which means campaigns aren’t performing as they once were and brands are losing potential customers. 

Facebook’s response to the ePrivacy Directive launched on July 6, but it has been slow to take effect—many brands are just starting to notice the changes. 

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, make sure that your marketing team is ready to adapt. In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What changes Facebook made
  • How the changes will affect your ability to advertise on Facebook
  • How to set your brand up for success amid the data privacy movement
  • How to have a successful holiday season despite the changes 

What changes has Facebook made?

According to their report, Facebook made 3 primary changes to their privacy controls:

  1. Updated its cookie consent banner
  2. Restrictions on advertisers’ use of third-party data to target audiences
  3. Added a cookie consent manager in users’ Facebook settings 

The first 2 are likely to have the biggest impact on brands that advertise on Facebook, so they’re worth a closer look. 


The new cookie consent banner

Since July 6, Facebook users in Europe are starting to see this popup when they log into their account:

Popup form from Facebook about cookie consent in response to the ePrivacy Directive.

This consent form lets users decide if they want to allow “app and website cookies” and “cookies from other companies” when they use Facebook, Instagram, or other Meta products. Facebook uses these first cookies to record user data that brands can then use to target ads, whereas cookies from other companies relate to whether other companies (like Google) can select or read cookies from the user’s device when using a Facebook product.  

If you’re in Europe, you might have seen this banner appear on Facebook when you log in. For example, many Facebook users in the UK saw this popup on desktop devices on September 1. Facebook hasn’t shared how they’re rolling the changes out, but it looks to be a phased approach based on one’s region and device type. 


Third-party data control 

Users now have to give consent for their cookies to be tracked on the Facebook app and other websites. Those who don’t allow cookies will be much more difficult to target, because they’re essentially a ghost. 

Facebook doesn’t know enough about these users to accurately target them, because it can’t capture and store the data. This makes it impossible to retarget shoppers who’ve visited your website, which is something that brands have had huge success doing in the past. 

These regional changes are taking place across Europe, including the UK and several non-EU countries. 

How is this affecting Facebook advertisers in the European region?

Obviously, these changes have impacted brands targeting European customers. And with Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the horizon, you’re probably wondering how this is going to affect your advertising efforts at one of the busiest times of the year.

Although the changes began in July, Facebook’s staggered rollout is delaying the full impact of these data privacy updates. 

In some cases, European users might not have had the chance to opt out before Black Friday. But if you’re relying on this, you might expect your targeting to work as usual—and then quickly overspend on an audience that’s not going to convert. 

Addressing the changes now will help in the long run—even if the rollout isn’t complete.  

In terms of tangible changes, here’s what advertisers may have started to notice—and will likely continue to see over the next few months: 

  • Smaller audiences as consumers opt out of tracking
  • Almost no ability to retarget website visitors
  • Fewer conversions, both from poor tracking and less focused targeting
  • Lower return on ad spend (ROAS)

Notably, Facebook says advertisers don’t have to take any action in order to be compliant. The onus is on the user to decide if they want their cookies to be tracked or not. While this may be true, being compliant isn’t the only objective—companies want to avoid losing customers while still reaching a highly-targeted audience. 

How will—or more specifically, how can—brands respond to this update? 

What can brands do to respond to Facebook’s changes during Black Friday?

Quickly adapting to Facebook’s new changes will make life a lot easier moving forward. Brands that start collecting first-party data, tweak their on-site cookie banner, implement email marketing segmentation, and make use of Facebook’s Conversion API will instantly put themselves ahead of the competition.

1. Improve your onsite cookie banner

The cookie banner on your website is an opportunity to get deeper data on how people interact with your website. If they opt out of tracking, you lose the ability to track their behavior and actions. If someone abandons an item in their cart, you won’t be able to retarget them on Facebook and tempt them back. Improving your banner is the first step in securing more customer data.

Wondering what a good opt-in rate is? “If you’re getting less than 70% consent rate on your website cookie banner, there’s room to improve,” according to Yves Attias at European digital marketing agency YATEO.

"If you’re getting less than 70% consent rate on your website cookie banner, there’s room to improve."

Yves Attias, YATEO

Measure your current opt-in rate and see where you stand. If the majority of visitors don’t consent to tracking, test your copy to see which version works best. Try experimenting with different phrasing and A/B test the results to see which version gets the most positive clicks. You can also use your banner to reassure your customers that sharing data is in their interest if they want to have a personalized experience.

For example, Nike explains to their customers why they use cookies and gives shoppers the chance to learn more about what will happen to their data—these steps help to improve their opt-in rate. 

Popup from Nike explaining to website visitors that opting into website cookies will deliver a more personalized experience.

2. Start collecting first-party data

With a more effective onsite cookie banner, you’ll be able to collect more data from your customers—without relying on a third-party source like Facebook. Instead of leaning on Pixels to capture their movements, behaviors, and actions—get ahead of the curve and start collecting first-party data. Data that you personally collect from your customers can include:

  • Contact information, like email addresses and phone numbers
  • Personal information, like birthdays
  • Product preferences
  • Behaviours on your website

While shoppers may be wary about what brands are doing with their data, the majority of UK consumers are okay with advertisers using their personal data to personalize offers and ads. Plus, it’s likely that your customers are more comfortable sharing their data with your brand if you make it clear that you want to build a relationship with them.

Even if you’re not using first-party data right now, start collecting it. It won’t be long until Facebook has completely rolled out these new changes and shoppers have chosen their preferences—in many cases, this means you’re out of luck. On top of this, the more first-party data you collect before, during and after Black Friday, the easier it will be to create campaigns that retain impulse buyers. 

Given how many brands are clamoring for attention during Black Friday, personalized recommendations will likely come as a relief to many of your customers. Using first-party data prevents your customers from having to wade through endless deals that aren’t a good fit for them.  

3. Implement the Conversion API 

While you might not be able to collect data through Facebook, you can use Facebook’s Conversion API to feed first-party data into your campaigns. All the information that you gather thanks to steps 1 and 2 can be fed into Facebook.

When you connect your marketing data, such as website events and email and text engagement, you can target more specific audiences on Facebook. 

This is a simple way to reduce the effect of the changes for your brand and continue to serve personalized ads to an engaged audience—but it’s crucial that you take the time to collect the data.

Get ahead of the ePrivacy Directive

Third-party data is losing steam—but that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to personalized ads and optimized customer experiences. Instead of relying on Facebook and other platforms to collect customer information, take control of it yourself. Collect first-party data and plug it into your email marketing platform to continue to serve high-converting tailored ads to the right audience segment. 

The ePrivacy Directive may not be fully rolled out yet—but there’s no better time to get ahead and put strategies in place to reap long-term rewards.

Ready to reduce your reliance on third-party advertising? Learn how to take control of your customer data.

Want to see how this UK brand grew Black Friday sales by 325% by using customer data?

Learn more

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