How it took a Scandal for Facebook to Look Inward and Make Some Big Policy Changes
If you think you have just read this post—you’re not crazy.
As of October 29th, Facebook has confirmed three crucial updates to their advertisement transparency campaign. (If only we waited two days to post this first draft!) No matter. That is the nature of advertising, isn’t it? Below is an updated stance on the initial scandal, and how Facebook has integrated their planned changes.
On the surface level, advertising serves the sole purpose to inform potential customers of a product or service in order to encourage a sale.
However, as the progress of digital marketing inevitably churns forward, some methods of advertising have evolved in tandem with the internet, so much so that they are able to track methods of customization so each user's advertising experience is unique.
Let’s be honest, we all (should) know by now that everything we search is tracked—this is nothing new. What some people are unaware of, however, is the effort to protect users from unethical actions from advertisers and their tracking methods, dubbed “advertising transparency.” Transparency is used to give consumers the opportunity to opt-out of advertisements that they don’t want to see, and to inform users that these practices are taking place so that they may make informed decisions on if they wish to participate.
So what’s the problem? As of October 23, 2017, there are no laws prohibiting companies from tracking their users and advertising transparency is completely voluntary. The ethical principles of each organization dictate the decision, and when it comes to advertising and the revenue it can generate, ethics can often fall by the wayside.
Before we get into the gritty details, this article isn’t about political opinion, it’s about advertising integrity.
The issue of advertising transparency has been prevalent in recent years, however the controversy made it’s way to the public headline due to scrutiny of Facebook’s involvement with the 2016 Presidential Election “scandal.” (As if there was just one!) As a quick refresher, on October 2, 2017, Facebook handed over 3,000 Russian-bought ads that were identified as direct influence attempts on U.S politics. They were deemed malicious due to their exploitative representation of stereotypes that were across-the-board offensive, and they were identifiably linked to the election from their exposure intent.
If you’re wondering how the fake advertisements made their way onto Facebook, below is an illustration of how the producers used both paid and organic traffic to circulate, popularize and profit with their campaign.
Politically corrupt advertisements hurt more than just our democratic process, but malicious content serves as a threat to advertising as a whole, and integrity needs to be established. If the authenticity of advertising diminishes from the public-eye, the product being advertised doesn’t stand a chance.
The good news? Facebook made it clear that they regret allowing their product to be used to divide the American people. After all, the vision Facebook was founded on was to connect us together.
Fortunately, they adopted a proactive approach, and incorporated 3 major changes that have a strong impact on how businesses will choose to advertise online.
1. "View All" Approach
The first major decision that they incorporated introduces an unheard of level of advertisement transparency in digital media. Starting first as a trial in Canada and then the United States in summer 2018, users will be able to click “View Ads” on any page they view, enabling all of the advertisements on the page to be viewable, regardless of whether or not the particular user is in the targeted demographic for the ad.
Think about it like a light in your room, before its on, you may be able to pick out some objects, however, when you flick the light on, everything is exposed—from your dirty laundry on the floor, all the way to your dog lying comfortably on your bed (a little pissed about the light being on too).
The point is, advertisers will no longer be able to hide their post in the dark corner of the room so that you don’t see it.
Facebook is requiring that all pages be part of this new policy, no matter if it has political background or not, in hopes that advertisers will aim to create a less biased, universally understood advertisement.
So what does this mean for advertisers? Answer: A complete shakeup to the advertisement creation process.
Creators will now have to keep in mind that any advertisement they intend to promote on Facebook will be visible to the entire public that views the page. This means that targeted coupons, discounts or special promotions will have to be available across-the-board, because advertisements will not be hidden from anyone, advertisements must be able to fulfill and successfully get their message out to a broad audience.
Good for advertisement integrity? For sure.
A potential pain in the ass for advertisers? You bet.
2. Political Verification
The next big step targets the corrupt political advertisers directly. Per Facebook Newsroom, thorough documentation will need to be provided from advertisers who want to run election-related ads. As Facebook intends to rollout these changes by summer 2018 for the United States, this policy will be implemented in time for the United States primaries, and is intended to be used in other countries and jurisdictions shortly after. With the documentation process, advertisers will be asked for identity and verification of both their entity and location.
Once Facebook gives them the OK, those advertisers will have to include a disclosure in their ads that read, “Paid for by…” and when you click the disclosure, you’ll see even more details about the advertisers.
To sum it up, if an advertiser thinks they will be able to slip any politically charged advertisement by without Facebook verification, especially after the scandal that surfaced after the last election, good luck.
3. The Archive
The last policy change is sort of a housekeeping update. Facebook plans to build an archive for federal-election related advertisements to show both current and historical related ads. This archive will be searchable, and will cover a rolling four-year period, (basically to stand a presidential term). Each ad archived will also provide: how much was spent to run the ad, the impressions delivered and the demographic information about who was interacting with the advertisement.
In doing so, Facebook ensures that advertisers maintain consistency, as you will be able to fact-check each advertisement they push, right down to the nitty-gritty of how much they spent on it, and who was really viewing it.
Facebook has taken a negative scandal, learned from it and made an incredible effort to correct something that needed correcting by forcing advertisers to maintain higher levels of legitimacy. As a democracy, it is our choice how we handle advertising in the digital age, as it is still new to us all. However, it is crucial to recognize the faults that we have created, and patch them up when necessary —especially when it is our very own politics that are being targeted maliciously.
Advertisement transparency is quintessential for how consumers view the authenticity of advertisers, and plays a crucial role of maintaining a balance of how we promote a product to consumers, and their choice to accept or reject it, if we begin to force things unto people, then our integrity will go down right alongside our reputation
Want to talk more about utilizing social media advertising for your business? Lucky for you, Revel does that. Drop us a line and we’d love to chat with you about it.