Facebook has spent well over a year addressing user safety and data security concerns. Since 2017 it has more than doubled its security team, announced new content review policies, instituted a new app evaluation process and took a number of other steps to improve the integrity of its platform.
But these efforts have not only been focused on the user side. Advertisers have also been impacted by Facebook’s move to secure its platform. Last year’s actions include major shifts like the removal of third-party ad targeting data. The company is also making efforts to create a safer environment for advertisers. As recently as last month, Facebook introduced new ad inventory filters, giving advertisers more control over the content their ads are attached to.
But, the one thing advertisers still are waiting to see from Facebook is a tool that could provide greater ad transparency and more accountability in terms of measurement.
Facebook teases the possibility of a transparency tool
In January, Facebook’s VP of ads Mark Rabkin told Digiday the company was considering privacy-safe clearinghouse-type solutions to give marketers more data transparency and cross-platform measurement.
“It’s just figuring out how can we sanitize the data, aggregate it, anonymize it, hash it and work with some kind of typically third partner — whether it’s the classic huge partner either Comscore or Nielsen or whoever — trying to figure out if it is possible, how do we put all those pieces together in a way that will actually work,” said Rabkin.
He didn’t disclose any details on what such a tool may look like, only saying that, to do it properly, it couldn’t be rushed.
“Hearing that Facebook is looking at solutions for greater transparency, cross-platform management and measurement is encouraging as we need to know the who, what, where, when and how much when it comes to people consuming our content and advertisements,” said Benjamin Hordell, a partner at the marketing firm DXagency.
Hordell is not alone. Jonathan Yantz, the paid social and search lead for M&C Saatchi, said cross-channel measurement is one of the biggest challenges for marketers.
“Especially ones lacking the resources necessary to build up robust data pools or invest in custom solutions,” said Yantz, “Given the mass amounts of touchpoints Facebook has to interact with users, it feels like a natural move for them to explore further in the measurement space, especially off the heels of last fall’s Facebook Attribution Tool.”
A marketer’s wish list
Yantz hopes any future Facebook “clearing-house tool” would help build towards greater transparency and understanding for advertisers.
“A key challenge we’d like to see Facebook address is the limitation of view-through tracking, which would help immensely, particularly when factoring in the company’s engaging but passive Stories products. Understanding the role these ephemeral units play in the consumer journey and their impact on other channels like search would provide valuable insight,” said Yantz.
He would also like to see a way for Facebook to connect — via secure and anonymous systems – with the likes of Google, Amazon and other major platforms to provide a fuller image of the customer journey that still respects a users’ privacy.
“For Facebook, working with a trusted industry name such as Comscore or Nielsen, as referenced by Rabkin at CES, could go a long way in establishing the renewed trust in the market,” said Yantz.
Hordell underscores the need for advertisers to have better insight into the full customer journey on Facebook and beyond.
“This relates to understanding the full funnel use experience and frequency of our marketing, even when the person is outside of the immediate Facebook ecosystem,” said Hordell, “This also includes knowing more about the adjacent content that is appearing alongside our ads, ensuring that our brands are protected.”
A call to arms for better brand safety
Brand safety concerns over ads appearing next to abusive or extremist content have long been an issue. This year, The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), a global organization made up of more than 6,000 marketers representing 90% of global ad spend, called on its members to put pressure on companies like YouTube and Facebook to do more to prevent malicious content from showing up on their platforms.
“Marketers must reflect on the extent and terms on which they fund these platforms. Conversely, the platforms must do more to assuage the growing number of advertiser concerns,” said WFA CEO Stephan Loerke in an announcement published on the organization’s website. At the Association of National Advertisers’ Media Conference in April, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO Marc Pritchard called on advertisers to demand the same quality from digital media companies as they get from media providers across TV, radio and print.
“It’s time to raise the bar and, for the ‘New Media Supply Chain,’ to deliver transparency through measurement across platforms,” said Pritchard who, along with Unilever CMO Keith Weed, has been a longtime critic of ad platforms and their lack of transparency.
Advertisers keep coming back for more
Facebook has worked to improve brand safety around its video advertising efforts. In January, it launched a brand safety certification with DoubleVerify, an ad measurement platform, and OpenSlate, a video content rating solution.
But, the real story is in the numbers. Facebook’s advertising revenue results show that marketers are not concerned enough with brand safety to pull campaigns. The company earned $14.9 million in ad revenue during the first quarter of this year, up 26% year-over-year. As advertisers continue to feed money into the platform, Facebook has little incentive to make major changes or roll out ad transparency tools.
“Facebook has continuously tried through its intelligent ad targeting to build the best user experience with ads, but we know that’s not enough,” said Steve Weiss, CEO of MuteSix, a Facebook advertising agency, “The current state of Facebook is that brands simply aren’t pulling ad spend away from the platform because it’s still a tried-and-true tested channel of reaching their target audience. It’s helping businesses scale no matter what the size.”
Weiss said, when Facebook performs well enough, clients are focused on the results and have come to expect the annual calls for Facebook users to leave the platform.
“It’s just not going to happen,” said Weiss, “When advertising is done well, this provides value to both brands and users. We’re all for preventing rampant abuse on Facebook – whether on the brand-front or political-front – and that’s what matters most to the marketing community.”
Building better relationships with consumers
Weiss does believe, as a marketer, the advertising community takes consumer privacy and protection very seriously. Hordell goes even further, putting platform safety – for both users and brands – over campaign results.
“As marketers, we are not only concerned with the end result of a marketing campaign. It’s not all about sales, leads and final tallies, but rather the entire customer journey,” said Hordell, “We do not want to alienate and annoy our potential customers in exchange for a short-term reward. We want to build lovers of brands and long-term relationships.”