MORE TRANSPARENCY IN ADS
A Little Background Information
In the past year, social platforms have come under fire for foreign-backed advertisements used to sway political opinion leading up to the 2016 US presidential election. To many, Facebook was the worst offender for allowing these ads to be run, targeting skeptical voters in swing states with fake news. Since the election, they’ve tackled the “Hard Questions” about Russian ads in a post by Facebook Vice President or Policy and Communications Elliot Schrage. They’ve also made a number of changes to the News Feed, including debuting new ways identify potential fake news, offering educational tools to help users spot fake news, reducing reach of click-bait posts, cracking down on cloaking, blocking ads from pages that share fake news, and testing ways to offer more context to news articles. Still, for many this was not enough. In mid-October, Sens. John McCain, Amy Klobuchar, and Mark Warner introduced the Honest Ads Act, which would require political ads on digital platforms to disclose who paid for the ads. In response to the criticism and the potential legislation, Twitter and Facebook unveiled new changes to make ads on their platforms even more transparent just weeks later.
Facebook and Twitter both allow brands and publishers to run “dark posts,” paid advertisements that are not available to users organically in their feeds or on the brand accounts, themselves. These dark posts are often used to test the effectiveness of audience targeting, creative and copy, or distribution channels, but some have also used them to distribute fake or misleading news.
To combat this, Twitter announced that it was launching an Advertising Transparency Center that would allow users to better understand who is advertising and what they’re sharing, and give individual users the opportunity to share feedback on this information. The ad details available in the Transparency Center will include creative and ad flight duration for all ads, included Promoted-Only ads (dark posts). Users will also be able to see the ads that have been targeted to them individually, along with “personalized information on which ads [they] are eligible to receive based on targeting,” wrote Bruce Falck, Twitter’s GM revenue product and engineering.
Days later, Facebook announced on that it would make all ads – including dark posts – available for viewing by all users. Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of ads, explained in a blog post: “Starting next month, people will be able to click ‘View Ads’ on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad.”
IMPLICATIONS FOR BRANDS
The Initial Rollout
All brands will be impacted equally by these changes. On Twitter, the Ads Transparency Center will debut first in the US and then expand globally. On Facebook, on the other hand, this change will roll out in Canada first and then expand to the US in by the summer of 2018 to ensure that these changes are firmly in place before the US midterm elections in November. While only active ads will be shown during the initial Facebook testing period in Canada, by the time this rolls out to the US, Facebook will build an archive of past and present ads tied to federal elections to ensure that users fully understand how brands and publishers are spreading news, whether authentic or fake.
Because all advertisers will be impacted in the same way, US-based brands will have a new method for gathering information about competitors’ efforts to connect with users through ads on Twitter, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. This presents a unique opportunity to better understand competitors and their audiences, differentiate brand messaging, and even compete directly. It’s important to note, however, that targeting and budgeting information will not be available when users choose to view a brand’s ads.
If you have questions about these new changes to advertising policies on Twitter and Facebook, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Brownstein Group.