Facebook Is Making Its Biggest Play to Improve Brand Safety, but Is It Enough to Gain Marketers’ Trust?

New tools detail transparency and set guidelines for creators

A Facebook vp addressed the Cambridge Analytica scandal at Shoptalk.
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For the past year, Facebook has been dogged by a stream of concerns from marketers about measurement and transparency issues plaguing the platform’s ad business while other brand safety questions swirl. Meanwhile, two incidents last week—a report that Facebook reaches more Americans than U.S. census data shows and news that fake Russian accounts purchased $100,000 of ads between June 2015 and May 2017—don’t help marketers’ lingering trust issues with the platform.

Now, Facebook is rolling out a few tools that it hopes will make advertisers more comfortable and clear about where their ads are running. As Adweek reported last week ahead of this week’s Dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany, the company has new brand safety tools and a set of guidelines detailing which users—namely publishers and creators—can make money off of content posted to the platform as part of its revenue sharing program. The moves come at a critical time when advertisers are not only demanding more insight into how the so-called walled garden operates, but also have broader concerns about controlling how digital ads are served and measured.

“This is an area where you’re going to see us make ongoing progress on and ultimately we care deeply about the health of the ecosystem on our platform­—that includes publishers, our consumers that use our products and advertisers,” said Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vp of global marketing solutions. “We want to ensure that advertisers feel confident in their investment on our platform and brand safety and what content ads are running against has been an area of concern.”

Money-making posts

Brand safety has been top of mind since hundreds of advertisers yanked or froze their YouTube ads once it was discovered that their ads were running next to objectionable content that promoted racism or terrorism. In response, YouTube began requiring that channels amass 10,000 views before they can be ad-supported. Facebook’s new guidelines are meant to address similar concerns about the context around where ads run, though they are not as tied to hard numbers like YouTube’s program.

Facebook’s guidelines address its revenue sharing program that pays creators in exchange for posting in-stream videos and fast-loading Instant Articles pages. Last month, the site launched its long-anticipated foray into video called Facebook Watch and has also tested placing ad breaks within videos that give 55 percent of ad revenue to creators while Facebook gets 45 percent of ad revenue.

“If you think about the way that YouTube did it with requiring a sizable community [for advertisers]—this brings it to that level of creating the credibility that I would think of similarly with how [Facebook] used to certify Pages,” said Jessica Richards, evp and managing director of Havas Media’s Socialyse. “It’s almost a certification for the types of content that’s being created but then applied with an additional measure for them to vet the content before it’s going up.”

The new guidelines detail which creators are eligible to participate and what content is appropriate to be supported by advertising. In addition to complying with the company’s terms and policies, “creators and publishers must have an authentic, established presence on Facebook—they are who they represent themselves to be and have had a profile or Page on Facebook over a sufficient period of time,” read the new guidelines. More specifically, a sufficient period of time is equivalent to one month, according to Facebook.

Facebook has tested pre-campaign tools with a handful of agencies including WPP-owned GroupM that show advertisers where their ads may appear. Facebook has provided WPP’s GroupM with a list of 2,700 Pages deemed brand safe for in-stream video ads, like big-name publishers BuzzFeed, Business Insider, Billboard magazine and MLB Advanced Media. From there, GroupM can choose to block ads from appearing on any of those Pages.