Facebook will tell brands where their ads appeared, ban certain content from carrying ads

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Facebook is increasingly attaching brands’ ads to others’ content, including Instant Articles and videos. That leaves advertisers wondering where their ads are appearing and wary of whether they want them there.

Now Facebook is getting more transparent with brands about where their ads appear and is taking a harder line over what content can carry those ads.

Pre- and post-campaign placement reports

Months after Facebook announced that it planned to tell advertisers which publishers’ sites, mobile apps and videos may feature their ads, next week Facebook will officially roll out these placement reports for ads running across its Audience Network ad network of third-party sites, as well as for ads appearing within videos and Instant Articles on Facebook, the company announced on Wednesday. The company also said it plans to provide a post-campaign placement report listing the publishers and creators on whose sites, apps, Instant Articles and videos an ad did, in fact, appear.

These placement reports are crucial in winning over advertisers concerned that their ads could appear next to controversial content in the wake of YouTube’s “adpocalypse” earlier this year. Major ad buyers, including WPP’s GroupM and Publicis Groupe’s DigitasLBi, had been advising brands against buying Facebook’s Audience Network inventory because of a lack of control over and transparency into these ads’ placement. Then, in June, Facebook announced plans to roll out the pre-campaign placement reports, following last year’s introduction of blocklists for advertisers to specify which publications they did not want to carry their ads.

Measurement audit and anti-fraud certification

Also important in comforting advertisers are assurances that advertisers are getting what they paid for.

To that end, in February, Facebook agreed to have its ad measurements audited by the Media Rating Council, following a series of measurement errors disclosed since September 2016. On Wednesday, Facebook provided an update on the audit. The company and the MRC have set an 18-month timeline for the independent auditing firm to check and accredit ad impression counts measured by Facebook, ad viewability measurements tracked by third-party firms like Moat and Integral Ad Science and two-second video views for ads bought from Facebook based on that metric. A Facebook spokesperson was not immediately able to answer whether the 18-month timeline starts from February 2017, when the MRC audit was agreed to, or today.

Facebook also said that it is in the process of joining the Trustworthy Accountability Group’s (TAG) “Certified Against Fraud” program. Formed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), TAG debuted the “Certified Against Fraud” program in December 2016 to recognize companies, such as Google, GroupM, Moat and DoubleVerify, that had met its anti-fraud standards.

Banning certain content from carrying ads

To further assuage advertisers, Facebook has begun to outlaw certain kinds of content from carrying ads bought through Facebook. The company’s new monetization eligibility standards build on the policy that already applies to publishers in Facebook’s ad network and extend to individual creators and publishers producing live and on-demand videos distributed on Facebook that are eligible to carry mid-roll ads as well as Instant Articles and organic posts labeled as branded content. As YouTube does, Facebook will remove ads from content found to be violating its standards and notify the corresponding creator or publisher, who will be able to appeal Facebook’s decision.

However, it’s unclear how Facebook will enforce its monetization eligibility standards against branded content. Since these are posts produced by a creator or publisher for a brand and paid for by the brand outside of Facebook, Facebook does not need to be involved in the financial arrangement between creator/publisher and brand. But these posts do use Facebook’s labeling system to tag them as branded and can be promoted by a brand as an ad on Facebook, so it’s possible Facebook could enforce its standards by reducing these posts’ organic reach or disqualifying them from running as ads. The Facebook spokesperson was not immediately able to say how the company will enforce its standards on these posts.

Facebook has listed nine categories of content from which creators and publishers will not be allowed to generate revenue. Those categories are listed below with Facebook’s description of each category attached:

Misappropriation of children’s characters: “Content that depicts family entertainment characters engaging in violent, sexualized, or otherwise inappropriate behavior, including videos positioned in a comedic or satirical manner. For example, situations where characters sustain serious personal injury, are involved in vile or shocking acts, or involved in behavior such as smoking or drinking.”

Tragedy and conflict: “Content that focuses on real world tragedies, including but not limited to depictions of death, casualties, physical injuries, even if the intention is to promote awareness or education. For example, situations like natural disasters, crime, self-harm, medical conditions and terminal illnesses.”

Debated social issues: “Content that is incendiary, inflammatory, demeaning or disparages people, groups, or causes is not eligible for ads. Content that features or promotes attacks on people or groups is generally not eligible for ads, even if in the context of news or awareness purposes.”

Violent content: “Content that is depicting threats or acts of violence against people or animals, where this is the focal point and is not presented with additional context. Examples includes content featuring fights, gore, beatings of either animals or people, or excessively graphic violence in the course of video gameplay.”

Adult content: “Content where the focal point is nudity or adult content, including depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.”

Prohibited activity: “Content that depicts, constitutes, facilitates, or promotes the sale or use of illegal or illicit products, services or activities. Examples include content that features coordinated criminal activity, drug use, or vandalism.”

Explicit content: “Content that depicts overly graphic images, blood, open wounds, bodily fluids, surgeries, medical procedures, or gore that is intended to shock or scare.”

Drugs or alcohol use: “Content depicting or promoting the excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, or drug use.”

Inappropriate language: “Content should not contain excessive use of derogatory language, including language intended to offend or insult particular groups of people.”

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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