Advantage+ Audience vs. Original Audiences

The process of Meta ad targeting and audience selection has evolved significantly during the past few years. Advertisers have been pulled through audience expansion and into complete algorithmic targeting, largely against their will.

But, there are very good reasons why these changes, which come at the expense of advertiser control, were necessary. It started with regulatory pressure on Meta related to the misuse of targeting distinct groups in order to manipulate elections or discriminate. You could also point to a loss of reliable data due to changes in allowable tracking used for targeting.

And finally, there’s a matter of Meta’s own investment in AI and machine learning. There are times when Meta may be better at finding your ideal audience automatically than you could be manually.

These days, we’re given options. Advantage+ Audience is the default method for audience selection, but you are able to switch to Original Audiences.

Advantage+ Audience

Not without repeated warnings, of course…

Advantage+ Audience

It would be a lot easier if I could tell you to either always use Advantage+ Audience or always avoid it. It’s not that simple.

There are times when Advantage+ Audience makes the most sense. There are times when it’s probably a bad idea. But, most advertisers misunderstand when to take each approach.

It’s understandable why there’s so much confusion. Several variables apply. While Advantage+ Audience is rather straightforward, Original Audiences behave differently depending on your performance goal.

Once you better understand how each of these work, the strengths and weaknesses will begin to clarify. By the end of this post, I hope that you’ll have a better plan for when you should use Advantage+ Audience and when you should revert to the old ways.

How Advantage+ Audience Works

For each approach, let’s focus on what you can restrict, the inputs you can provide, and when Meta can expand targeting beyond your initial inputs.


Audience Controls provide limited restrictions regarding who can see your ads.

Audience Controls

Your ads will not be shown to people outside of your selected locations, minimum age, languages, or excluded custom audiences.

Note that there is not an Audience Control for maximum age or gender. Your ads will be shown to anyone who is likely to perform your goal action.

Your Inputs:

Your inputs are Audience Suggestions and they are not required. Suggestions can include custom audiences, lookalike audiences, age range, gender, and detailed targeting.

Advantage+ Audience

Note that these are all suggestions and not restrictive. Ads can be shown to people outside of your selected custom audiences, age range (assuming it’s within the age minimum Audience Control), gender, and detailed targeting.

If you don’t provide suggestions, Meta will begin with your pixel data, conversion history, and prior engagement with your ads while searching for people most likely to perform your goal action.


I don’t know if defining what Meta does here as “expansion” is accurate, but it’s a way to compare Advantage+ Audience with what can happen using Original Audiences.

Meta will initially prioritize your audience suggestions before going much broader. Ultimately, the algorithm will show your ad to anyone (assuming this is allowed by Audience Controls) if they are likely to lead to more of the action you want, as defined by the performance goal.

How Original Audiences Work

Original Audiences allow you to use targeting the way you “used to” use it — but not the way you did it several years ago. It just provides more control than Advantage+ Audience, though there are several variables that alter how it works.


Meta will not deliver your ads to people outside of your selected locations, age range, gender, exclusions (custom audience or detailed targeting), or languages.

Original Audiences

There are signs that detailed targeting exclusions may be going away, but Meta is currently saying that there are no immediate plans for such a change.

Your Inputs:

In addition to the audience inputs listed above in Restrictions, advertisers can provide custom audiences, lookalike audiences, and detailed targeting.


This gets somewhat complicated with Original Audiences. In some cases, Meta can serve your ads beyond your selected detailed targeting or lookalike audiences, and you can’t turn it off. Sometimes you have the option. And whether or not you have an option may be different, depending on your version of Ads Manager.

Advantage Custom Audience: When you provide a custom audience or group of custom audiences, you have the option to turn on Advantage Custom Audience. When on, your ads can be delivered to people beyond your selected custom audiences if it will lead to better results.

Advantage Custom Audience

There is always an option to turn Advantage Custom Audience off when using Original Audiences, regardless of the performance goal.

Advantage Lookalike: Lookalike audiences allow you to create a pool of people who are similar to those who are connected to you in some way. When creating these lookalike audiences, you can focus on those who are within the top 1 to 10% of those most similar within a given country or group of countries.

Lookalike Audience

When you provide a lookalike audience for targeting, Advantage Lookalike allows Meta to show your ads to people outside of your selected percentage if it will improve performance.

Advantage Lookalike

This cannot be turned off when optimizing for conversions. Meta announced earlier this year that this default setting would also be applied to optimization for link clicks and landing page views (though many advertisers are still given the option to turn it off).

Advantage Detailed Targeting: Advertisers can target people based on interests and behaviors on and off of the Meta family of apps using detailed targeting. Advantage Detailed Targeting allows Meta to reach people beyond those inputs if it will improve performance.

Advantage Detailed Targeting

Similar to Advantage Lookalike, Advantage Detailed Targeting is on by default and cannot be turned off when optimizing for conversions.

Advantage Detailed Targeting

While it appears to be Meta’s plan to make this the default when optimizing for link clicks and landing page views, it’s not currently the case for all advertisers.

A Summary of Control

There are multiple reasons to favor one approach over the other. For many advertisers, it’s a matter of control, even though that complaint isn’t always justified as a harm.

Let’s summarize the level of control for each approach…

Advantage+ Audience


  • Locations
  • Minimum Age
  • Languages
  • Excluded Custom Audiences

Audience Suggestions:

  • Custom audiences
  • Lookalike audiences
  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Detailed targeting

Original Audiences


  • Locations
  • Age Range
  • Gender
  • Languages
  • Excluded custom audiences

Optional Expansion:

  • Advantage Custom Audience
  • Advantage Detailed Targeting (all but for conversions, link clicks, and landing page views)
  • Advantage Lookalike (all but for conversions, link clicks, and landing page views)

Forced Expansion:

  • Advantage Detailed Targeting (for conversions, link clicks, and landing page views)
  • Advantage Lookalike (for conversions, link clicks, and landing page views)

As a reminder, not all versions of Ads Manager have forced audience expansion when optimizing for link clicks and landing page views, but Meta announced this as a change.

When to Use Advantage+ Audience

Advantage+ Audience leverages algorithmic targeting, putting minimal limits on whom can be reached in an effort to get you the most desired actions at the lowest cost.

The assertion that Advantage+ Audience leads to lower costs is difficult to dispute (or prove false). The question is related to quality.

When you should use Advantage+ Audience can be summarized like this…

1. When optimizing for purchases. You could make the argument that you should instead use Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns, but Advantage+ Audience is a good option as well. The algorithm can’t be misled by low-quality purchases, since this isn’t a thing. It will do what it can to get you the most purchases at the lowest cost. If you desire higher value, you can optimize for Value instead.

2. When optimizing for other types of conversions. There is a caveat here since quality is something to monitor. But, I’ve found Advantage+ Audience to be plenty effective for running lead campaigns. When quality is a concern, you can also assess your lead forms or optimize for Conversion Leads instead.

When to Use Original Audiences

Choosing to use Original Audiences is less about leveraging a unique strength of this approach and more about avoiding a potential weakness associated with Advantage+ Audience. But, let’s be clear: Original Audiences merely help limit the issues associated with certain types of optimization.

1. Top of Funnel Optimization. Whenever possible, you should select a performance goal that is near the bottom of the funnel (conversions or leads). The algorithm’s focus is getting you as many of those actions as possible. But, if you optimize for link clicks, landing page views, post engagement, ThruPlay, or some other type of top of funnel action (and you have no choice), you should use Original Audiences.

Top of funnel optimization is already problematic because the algorithm does not care about generating quality link clicks, landing page views, post engagement, or ThruPlays. Its only focus is getting you that thing, regardless of who is performing the action. This is why Advantage+ Audience can make what is already a problem even worse.

Original Audiences allow you to put some guardrails on your targeting. You can isolate gender, age ranges, and even lookalike audiences and detailed targeting. Of course, if you have the update that forces audience expansion for link click and landing page view optimization, it’s less restrictive.

Keep in mind that having customers who are primarily a certain gender or within a specific age group isn’t enough to require Original Audiences. If you optimize for purchases, use Advantage+ Audience — the algorithm will focus on those most likely to purchase. But, this customer focus is more reason to switch to Original Audiences for the top of the funnel (though you should have made that switch anyway).

2. Remarketing. If you want to run ads that only reach people within a custom audience, Advantage+ Audience is not the method for you. The custom audience you provide will only be used as an audience suggestion. You should instead use Original Audiences.

The question is whether you need to run a “true” remarketing campaign. Some advertisers run general remarketing campaigns to their email list, website visitors, or people who engage with their ads because they assume these people are more likely to act on their ads. If that’s the case (and you’re optimizing for conversions), I still recommend using Advantage+ Audience and listing custom audiences as suggestions.

The only time when using Original Audiences for remarketing would be necessary is if you have a unique message that only people in that audience should see. Original Audiences will allow you to isolate that group.

Have a Reasoned Approach

I hope this post provides some clarity on how these two approaches work and when you might use both. Find what works for you. But, I ask that you make sure that your reasons for doing what you do are backed in facts and not assumptions.

If you assume that your targeting inputs are critical to the performance of your ads, you will likely prefer using Original Audiences in most cases. But, I encourage you to challenge that assumption. Experiment more thoroughly with Advantage+ Audience. Remember that your audiences are often expanded anyway when using Original Audiences.

Make sure that your reasoning for abandoning Advantage+ Audience is backed by a known weakness. If you primarily serve women, do not assume that if you optimize for purchases and use Advantage+ Audience that your ads will be shown to men. More than likely, it will be the opposite.

Your Turn

How do you approach when to use Advantage+ Audience or Original Audiences?

Let me know in the comments below!