By Laura Collins

Last month, Facebook made some announcements about changes to their approach to ad transparency that could potentially have big consequences for advertisers and agencies. 

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Starting with a limited test in Canada, they will allow users to visit any business page and view every ad that has previously run from that page, whether that user falls into the target segment originally intended to view it or not. 

This decision has primarily been driven by the controversy around Russian political interference in the US election using Facebook ads, and concerns about what different messages can be conveyed to different groups without them knowing. Facebook have made it clear that they will be demanding particularly high levels of transparency from political advertisers to address this specific issue. 

But it won’t be limited strictly to politics…so what about the rest of us?

There are understandably some nervous whispers among the advertiser/agency community. Serious concerns spring to mind around heavily-regulated industries such as finance; where an ad has been deemed misleading and a company ordered to remove it, could it show up as part of their page’s ad history and continue to “mislead”? But even for advertisers without legal implications to consider, if a detailed creative strategy has been utilised to serve highly relevant ads to specific audience segments, could that become redundant? 

Facebook are yet to iron out all of the specifics around exactly which ads could appear in such a search, but it seems highly unlikely that there won’t be an option to exclude ads that have been disapproved by official regulatory bodies. Equally, it would be foolish of them to punish their most innovative agencies and advertisers by allowing competitors to simply visit the relevant business page and steal all of their creative strategies. 

Mark Zuckerberg has said, “We’re serious about preventing abuse on our platforms. We’re investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability. Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.” 

Investing more heavily in security next year does point to them starting to take the problem very seriously, but they haven’t stopped caring about profits altogether. These changes, when tested and confirmed in more detail, will need to find a balance between addressing the concerns of the public and government, and not causing damage to advertisers. 

At Merkle we’re confident that Facebook will strike that balance well and that we’ll see little negative impact for our clients. In fact, anything that can build consumer trust in the platform can only be a good thing. As results emerge from the test in Canada it’ll be interesting to see how many users even choose to take advantage of this feature (we predict very few), and how advertisers and agencies alike are impacted. 

We’ll keep our clients up to date on progress of that test, and the potential for rollout to other territories. If you have any any questions in the meantime, please get in touch

Image credit to Alessio Jacona

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