How Does Facebook Know I’m Jewish?

UPDATE: See below for Katan’s answer

The ad nailed it.

"Hey Jew" it called out.

But how? How did it do it? I don’t list my religion (or my politics) on my Facebook profile. I don’t even have those Israeli flag Facebook apps.

Some plausible theories are that the marketer used some combination of targeting around my city (New York), alma mater (Binghamton) and entertainment interests (The Daily Show, Seinfeld, Everything Is Illuminated).

Some less plausible theories: top secret Jew-havioral targeting algorithms… perhaps that’s what’ll be unleashed at Facebook’s F8 next week. Or it’s just targeting people who look Jewish.

I tried calling and emailing Katan Adventures, which ran the ad. I’ll let you know when I get to the bottom of this.

Still, it’s better than Facebook calling people fat.


Update: Katan responded to me. I like the theories listed in the post and comments better, but at least we have an answer. I wrote:

Random question for you…

I just saw your Facebook ad where it says "Hey Jew" and it cracked me up.

happen to cover online ad targeting on my blog and through the trade
pub MediaPost, and I’m wondering how you targeted it, as I don’t list
my religion on my profile. Are you just targeting fans of Seinfeld or



Here’s what Katan wrote back:

Hey David –

I assume you are from NY?  In order to reach Jews
who haven’t listed their religion on Facebook (which, by the way, is
the vast majority) we run ads in metro areas with large Jewish
populations and try to grab their attention with ridiculous lines such
as "hey jew" but we obviously get a lot of wasted clicks with this
strategy as well.   And some angry emails.

Seinfeld fans is a good idea though.  And maybe Zabar’s fans, but I’m sure that is a small group.

Thanks for your interest and if you ever want to pass along any online marketing ideas, we’d love to hear them.







16 thoughts on “How Does Facebook Know I’m Jewish?

  1. I wondered why I was targeted on Facebook with a breath candy advertised for those who “Drink at work?” – then I realized I had “Mad Men” in my profile under “Favorite TV Shows” and it started to make sense. So I did a Facebook search for the name of the breath candy, and got no results. However, the results page displayed an ad for “Mad Men”.

  2. Hey, just to let you know it’s not strictly jewhavorial. I actually got to this site by googling “facebook tracking demographic info” because I noticed a bunch of ads targeted towards asians/asian females (I am, indeed, an asian female). I actually freaked out a little because I don’t have my ethnicity listed anywhere on my profile and was wondering if they could somehow track last names or even pictures. I guess I still don’t have a good answer…unless they assume everyone in New York is Asian as well as Jewish.
    Also FYI, right after I read this post I went back to Facebook and got the same ad you cited but the heading read “Jews and Friends.” First, I was relieved thinking they really do indiscriminately target all of New York. Then I thought…wait a second, did they know I was not actually Jewish but may be just Jew-friendly? Then I assured myself that they changed it after the complaints. Then I got super-paranoid and clicked on it just to throw them off my trail. And if I see an ad for erectile dysfunction I’m clicking on that too. Just in case.

  3. I got a similar ad the other day that used my age. It begins, “are you 32 and male?” and continues to say that if so, I am just right for their products. We’ll my immediate thought was “of course I’m 32 and male and you KNOW that, Facebook, because you require my birthday as ‘a safety precaution’!” This is the problem with online advertising – I cannot choose what information I trade for things I value. I gave this particular information so that children would not use Facebook without supervision – i.e. as a safety precaution. I give my education information so I can network, not so I can get ads for “Nerdwestern” t-shirts. This, to me, is a gross and growing problem of misusing user profile or other user information to target them with ads. I realize – and agree – that publishers need to monetize their sites, but I think this takes it too far. The sad part is that it isn’t just the consumers who are getting the bad end of the deal. Marketers, brands and publishers all look bad when customers (or readers) feel mis-targeted or stereotyped or feel that their private information has been abused. Exploiting user information is not the way to build relationships with customers. Here is a novel idea: let users give information – preferences – explicitly for ads or offers. It just makes sense to listen to customers and the internet, as an information platform, does the best job of that; except as it relates to ad content.
    In full disclosure I co-founded a company to offer that exact service, but this is an important topic that I like to see discussed from all sides.
    David Rostan
    Co-Founder & President
    invite code: twitter

  4. Facebook Ad Targeting – it worked – one story

    I think How Does Facebook Know Im Jewish? post by David Berkowitz was pretty amusing and intersting – Ive meet David at several conferences and events in New York over the last 3 years or so, most recently, last week.David…

  5. Hey Alan, I know Jordan Rich. I know him from the pool club and our kids went to Hebrew School together. Oh wait, that’s Jewish geography.

  6. It’s a secret algorithm that Zuckerberg has implemented to approach all members of the tribe. As Adam pointed out, the jewhavioral targeting uses a kosher macaroon. So if you come to FB from your temple’s website and maybe an online deli, you will see the Hey Jew ad.

  7. Alex, Amy, Alan, Adam – those are among the best comments I’ve seen on any blog, let alone mine. I may have to now recruit comments from people whose name starts with A

  8. Okay, so they do target Jews– the company really does offer adventure tours for Jews 18-36 years old (WalMarts of the Midwest??)
    And they’ve seen your Jewhavioral pun Adam, and upped it with “EcoloJEWcal” tours.
    Though I could trot out that corny email that many of our parents have sent on to us about the “kosher computer” I’ll just post one of many links to it instead:

  9. Hmmm, I wonder how it would have turned out if said co. was targeting Asians, or Hispanics, or even a Black person. That’s walkin’ a fine line, though I love that they’re willing to experiment a bit with their brand.

  10. Jewhavioral is by far the best marketing buzz word that I have heard in a long time… WOW!

  11. Don’t know if this is scary or spot on marketing? Could it be that your “top friends” belong to jewish groups within facebook? I usually do not pay attention to these ad, and am on facebook only when I get a message, but after reading this and someone else’s mention of a “hey fatty” ad on their page, I will pay more attention. My
    Can’t wait to find out what Katan has to say and if more targeted jews react. I am listed as an Agnostic and have never seen any “Hey Non-believer” ads.

  12. Wow. Seeing this ad would totally freak me out. Now, if Facebook figures out that I’M Jewish–with a name like Amy Worley–we’ll know they really do have some super secret targeting algorithm.

  13. Or it could just be that, like my grandmother, Facebook assumes that anyone named “Berkowitz” (and “David” Berkowitz, no less) just had to be Jewish.
    Ad is a bit creepy though, even if you had listed it. I mean it’s not like it’s a Jewish adventure travel company that takes you to mountaintop synagogues or something. I mean if your name were say, Armano, would the ad say “Hey Paisan!”

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