Sep 22, 2017

Political advertisers worry about new Facebook rules

Facebook’s new transparency could come at a price for political advertisers. Photo: Jeff Chiu / AP

In an effort to self-regulate advertising on its platform, Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that in the coming months, Facebook will not only require that political advertisers disclose which Facebook page paid for an ad, "but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser's page and see the ads they're currently running to any audience on Facebook."

Why it matters: Ad buyers overwhelmingly support Facebook's efforts to be more transparent and to crack down on ads that lead to bad pages, but worry about how publicly disclosing their ads will change the way they compete with those advocating for opposing ideologies.

  • "This is a win for transparency and a win for Facebook ad revenue. Even the campaign managers and advertisers most reluctant to spend on Facebook ads might change their minds and up their budgets when they see what ads their competitors are running," says Colin Berglund, digital director at Rational 360, an advocacy and public affairs firm in Washington.
  • "It's probably a natural evolution as an industry matures, but it will make the process more cumbersome and it will also allow competitors to see how you are targeting audiences," says Rob Collins, partner at the public affairs firm S-3 Group and former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The details: They're unclear. Advertisers are assuming — but don't know for sure — that the rules apply to all "political" ads, meaning all cause and appeal messages from trade associations, coalitions, corporate lobbying shops, etc., or simply ads that advocate for the election of a candidate to political office.

They're are also unsure of exactly how Facebook will technically manage uploading tens of thousands of ads to Facebook pages per day. For ad buyers that test thousands of different ad iterations per day, they worry Facebook may not technically have the bandwidth at this time to display all of those ads on a single Facebook page.

Other advertisers are working to respond to the newly-announced limits to targeting terms on the platform, and trying to figure out how to reroute their campaigns. Most say they are confident that Facebook will eventually reinstate an updated version of its old structure, once it's completed once it has reviewed the terms in its system..

"Facebook still has the best targeting options and I wouldn't be surprised if they figure a way to bring a lot of that back," says Matt DeLuca, a consultant with over a decade of political ad buying experience at Edelman and AARP. Earlier this year DeLuca reported KKK targets on the platform after trying to exclude alt-right users from a clients' ad campaign and says Facebook had "removed most of them but not all."

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