So, in Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing quest for greater transparency (at least, on the PR front) following the US Elections, he’s just announced plans to throw open the previously hidden world of Facebook advertising.
While the focus is largely on those buying political ads, his slightly ambiguous post suggests that anyone visiting a brand page will soon be able to see how much said brand has paid for advertising, details of how their particular ads are targeted, as well as the number of impressions their ads have generated.
To quote Mark Zuckerberg verbatim:
1. We’re making all ads more transparent, not just political ads. We’ll soon start testing a feature that lets anyone visit any page on Facebook and see what ads that page is currently running. For political advertisers, we’re working on a tool that will let you search an archive of ads they’ve run in the past. You’ll also be able to see how much an advertiser paid, the type of people who saw the ads and the number of impressions. Our goal is to fully roll this out in the US ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Clearly then, there are major implications for any brand advertising on Facebook. While I’m not expecting every single nugget of data to be publicly available to the hoi polloi, it will still make uncomfortable reading for anyone running ad campaigns on behalf of their clients (i.e. us). Specifically, I can see issues around three areas;
– Giving away competitive information into investment in social advertising. Would a brand be comfortable revealing this? Probably not. Just as they wouldn’t want anyone to know about how the rest of their marketing budget is sliced.
– Audience targeting insight. Many highly effective campaigns we run on behalf of brands come down to creative, insight-led audience targeting. Certainly not the kind of information we – or our client – would be happy to share. Unless we want to lose a competitive edge, which we don’t.
– High performing ad content – crudely speaking, Facebook ads perform in the same way as organic content, ultimately slaves to Facebook’s ever-changing Edgerank. So high reach ad content, could = Edgerank-busting content. The crown jewels as far as Facebook content is concerned, and, again, not something you, as a brand, want to explicitly advertise to your competitors.
Is there reason to panic? Probably not. As usual, this is being tested in limited US markets first. At this stage I’d put it down to PR lip service from a company keen to put fake news and electoral fraud behind it.