Facebook’s efforts to axe Russian hackers will hit marketers

Facebook have announced arguably one of their biggest policy updates ever in the name of ad transparency. The effort to stamp out naughty Russian hackers overthrowing elections will have wide-reaching implications for marketers too.

No rush job

Improving the transparency of the digital advertising industry to meet the expectations of the wider marketing community has not necessarily been achieved in the timeliest of fashions. Now, thanks to the fact there is clear evidence pro-Kremlin entities bought a stack of Facebook ads in the lead up to the 2016 US election, Facebook is making some big changes around transparency of advertisers.

Although the value of Russian-bought ads aimed to influence the US election was relatively small at $100,000-$150,000 USD, the implications may have been wide with those ads reaching around 10 million unique users. 44% of the ads were shown before the election with 56% of the ads shown after. 25% were not shown to anyone thanks to lousy ad relevancy scores and poor performance in Facebook’s auction process. Interestingly only 1% of all the ads used Custom Audiences and any Facebook marketer worth their salt knows the power of a solid custom audience.

From Russia with love and the impact on marketers

To combat shifty ad practices and shine a light into the dark corners of the world’s biggest social media platform Facebook have announced a huge policy change to improve the transparency of advertisers and their strategies on the platform.

In Mark Zuckerberg’s September 21st Facebook Live (above) he announced a new age of transparency but stopped short of clarifying if this would be just for political advertisers. From the Facebook announcement this week, it seems the changes will affect every advertiser on the platform and allow any user or competitor to click on an ad, see what account is behind the ads and all of the ads they are running even if that user isn’t in that particular audience targeting. Also on full display will be the exact targeting and retargeting used for each ad set.

In the world of Facebook marketing this is a big deal. Top marketers historically guard their audience, creative and retargeting strategies keeping them hidden from potential competitors who’re after that illusive 5 x return on ad spend and CTR of 4+%.

A brighter day for digital

Transparency is a good thing. It will inevitably help Facebook clean up dodgy actors overthrowing elections, help to combat fake news and generally make the experience on the platform better.

Tom Hiscocks of Social Obsession says that this will have massive implications for grey and black advertisers operating shady practices on the platform.

“As a marketer I’m not worried about the changes at all. However, there will be many that will be impacted especially from a compliance stand point. It’s not so much breaches of Facebook ad policy that will impact shady advertisers, but local country and state laws they may fall foul of and pay the price,” he says.

In the past if single ads breached a local or country law, governing bodies would only have a link or a screen shot to try and determine if the ads were a breach or not. Now the entire strategy, all the ad creative from the full ad sets and the targeting will be on public display. Tom goes on to say: “regulators will be able to click on the accounts and see the full bait and switch. Advertisers using this tactic will be fully exposed.”

When Instagram changed its logo in mid 2016 there was much robust discussion. Facebook changing it’s policy around ad transparency should demand the attention of any marketer on or off the platform. It’s a move forward for the entire digital industry and one that should be embraced for the greater good.

Facebook have so far declined to comment when the new rules will begin to roll out.


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