Lack of Data and Brand Safety Underpin Marketers’ Concerns With Facebook and Google

4 execs’ views of the duopoly

Brands want more Facebook and Google to fork over more data. Getty Images
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Marketers’ love-hate relationship with Facebook and Google is complicated. While the duopoly’s grip across digital advertising only continues to grow—the two make up 60 percent of 2017 digital spend, per eMarketer—marketers’ concerns about brand safety, data and fake news also continue to grow.

Given the platforms’ massive clout and the lack of data that marketers are privy to, advertisers are quick to complain about the ins and outs of working with Facebook and Google. More often that not though, the qualms aren’t specific.

Though they may have something specific to now gripe about: Thursday night, Facebook announced, through a Mark Zuckerberg post, that its 2 billion users will “see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media” and more content from their friends.

Prior to Facebook’s industry-rattling move, Adweek asked a handful of brand and agency execs at CES, “What would you like Facebook and Google to do better?”

The upshot: Marketers want more granular metrics on both platforms, better cleanup of brand safety issues and accountability around fake news. More on this last one later.

Here’s what they had to say.

Meredith Verdone, Bank of America’s CMO
From the walled-garden standpoint, it’s making sure that we have access to the data that we think belongs to us.

This brand safety issue is critical. Our brand is our most important asset and having it adjacent to content that detrimental to our brand and that’s going to continue to be at the forefront [of our work.] You see any brand that has a sidestep miscue and people are very unforgiving. We’re going to be very conservative in terms of how we manage our brand.

Michael Bassik, managing director of MDC
I think you’re going to see a division where there are the open platforms where you can buy any inventory on the internet and you have to bring your own data, brand safety and viewability standards to it to make sure that you’re reaching the right people.

On the other end, you’re going to see Facebook and other walled gardens that can have more control over brand safety. But it’s such a big question when we’re talking about brand safety. Facebook is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sniff out fake news so that they don’t become part of proliferating lies and misinformation online—it’s just going to be impossible to keep up. As long as we have user-generated content, it’s going to be impossible to police this.

Guillaume Lelait, managing director of Fetch
There are more things that Google is launching that auto-optimizes [media campaigns] that is less cost-prohibitive of investment and staffing. It makes our job easier, but it’s also more like a black box and understanding what they’re doing in the background with algorithms.

They are using their own method for targeting and their own attribution. That means, in a sense, Facebook is telling you performance [data] and you’re fine with it because of their scale.

There is not a single ID that works between them. You have a giant black box and then you have the rest of the industry, which is trying to move away from cookies. That means we have to do people-based marketing and create new device IDs but you can’t use [the IDs] across [multiple] platforms.

Mark Read, global CEO of Wunderman
They have to proactively take on the issues that clients have around brand safety and fake news. Ultimately, they have to be responsible for the content on their platform, just like any other media owner would take responsibility. They’re both media and technology companies—not just a technology company.

I think to a greater or less degree, they have been taking responsibility but I still they’re too slow in doing it and they need to catch up. The good thing is that they are listening, they are responding.

Brand safety is very much an issue. This has been going on for quite a long time and there are clients who are just now taking spend away. There are steps they’re taking [like] putting AI in the process but with everything they address, something else seems to pop up.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.