Last week, Facebook announced major changes to its advertising platform in an effort to increase advertiser transparency and quell recent scrutiny about lack of disclosures, particularly related to political ads. Rollouts will start in the coming weeks, beginning with Canada, as a testing ground, with the goal of getting things fully established before election primaries in the U.S. Many of the new disclosure policies Facebook is being encouraged to implement are common-practice for traditional media like newspapers, TV, and radio. This is what we will be keeping an eye out for as the policies become widespread.
Advertising Transparency for All Pages
One of the most notable changes is a higher level of visibility that Facebook will allow its users to see about how advertisers are operating behind the scenes. In the coming months, users will be able to go to any Page and click “View Ads” to see the individual ads that page is currently running on Facebook – including whether or not they’ve been served that ad or are within that ad’s targeting pool. Up until now, users have been able to click “Why am I seeing this ad?” to get high-level information on the ad being served to them. This change will provide users with basic information about the ad targeting, such as age, geographic and interest segments. For federal-election related ads, ads will be archived for a 4 year period and include details on total amount spent, impressions served, and specifics on demographics of who the ad reached.
Disclosures for Advertisers
In the past, Facebook advertisers have been able to run ads without associating the campaign to a Page. This opened the door for unidentifiable sources to use paid tactics to promote information and links from unverified sources. This and related issues have led to the announcement of additional documentation and disclosure from advertisers who want to run election-related ads. One new requirement is that all ads, regardless of industry, must be associated with a Facebook Page to be able to run. This is a direct response to claims that unverifiable content has been allowed to not only be intentionally posted by unverifiable sources, but also promoted to specific targets’ budgets.
This update also says Facebook may (no details on the specifics or the barriers) require advertisers to add a “Paid for by” disclosure to election-related ads. Clicking this disclosure will bring up details about the advertiser, similar to the “Why am I seeing this ad?” feature. They may also be required to verify their identity and detail that they are a running election-related advertising. For those who choose not to disclose this information, Facebook has said they are developing their machine learning capabilities to do it for them.
Rob Goldman, VP of Ads at Facebook, said in the announcement, “We remain deeply committed to helping protect the integrity of the electoral process on Facebook. And we will continue to work with our industry partners, lawmakers and our entire community to better ensure transparency and accountability in our advertising products.”
What this Means for our Clients
For Facebook to maintain its value, it needs to be able to guarantee a high-quality experience for both users and advertisers in paid and organic channels. These new steps are vital to working toward that goal; unverified, undisclosed content spreading through social diminishes the value for other advertisers by lowering trust. The extra level of disclosures should help greatly in providing credible insight for users about advertising they’re exposed to and its source.
Being able to see the ads of any page without being served them may feel like a bigger shift. For the advertising community, this level of transparency may leave us feeling a bit exposed, as our ad creative, tactics, and targeting are meticulously planned for particular audiences and thought of as behind-the-scenes information. However, when advertising enters environments as personal and integrated into our lives as Facebook, users need to have a genuine feeling of privacy, control, and insight. Facebook remains one of the leading digital advertising platforms with the widest potential reach of any social network and these changes are strong signals that it intends to act on feedback in major ways to maintain that status with users and advertisers.
What implications do you see to the Facebook platform, either as an advertiser or user, for these major changes? Is the level of transparency enough to ease concerns from stakeholders, or still not enough? Send us a response or ask us your questions on the Karsh Hagan Facebook Page.