Facebook’s New “View Ads” Feature is a Game Changer

In a little heralded announcement on Friday, Facebook may have changed the online advertising industry forever. A blog post from Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of Ads, detailed several new measures as part of the company’s response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and in advance of the appearance of company executives before the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees next week.  Among new rules regarding disclosures and verified identities for political advertisers, Goldman stated that:

“Starting next month, people will be able to click “View Ads” on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger — whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad.”

While rolled out in response to pressure around political campaigns, the “View Ads” feature will impact advertisers of all kinds. Roughly half of every new digital advertising dollar is being spent on Facebook (the remainder goes predominantly to Google) – only a small fraction of which belongs to political campaigns.

Here are our top three things to watch out for when the “View Ads” option goes live in Canada next month and the US in advance of the 2018 Midterms:

  • Facebook can no longer be treated as an advertising black box. The unmatched targeting potential of Facebook as a platform has made it possible for advertisers to deliver highly personalized messages to different audiences with little visibility into what and who they were targeting. For some advertisers, particularly those engaged in political issues, there have been benefits to keeping these messages private. The “black box” allowed buyers to segment messages by characteristics like party affiliation and keep these strategies private from competitors and opposition. Going forward, while tailoring message to audience will still be important, advertisers will need to consider that among the people paying closest attention to your ad strategy is in all likelihood your competition.
  • The media’s role in policing the ad world could change dramatically. To date, media coverage of digital media spends has often been simplistic. The obscure nature of ad buying means that coverage has often been limited to the facts that advertisers choose to make public, such as total spends and impressions served. While there have been some efforts to expose the inner workings of ad platforms, such as Pro Publica’s Political Ad Collector, these have been limited in scope. The “View Ads” feature could change this dramatically, giving journalists a new window into the way that companies, organizations, and campaigns use ads, and encouraging a new sophistication in the way ads are reported. Put simply, don’t put anything in an ad you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.
  • Regulators will have new tools to track compliance. From filings with the SEC around financial advertising to the proposed new lobbying regulations in states like New York that define posts calling on people to “contact their elected official” as lobbying activities, social media advertising is entering a new era of regulation. With the “View Ads” feature, it will be easier than ever before for regulators to track your organization’s compliance with the complex network of rules. This makes it more important than ever to make sure that your advertising partner has experience navigating highly regulated industries and environments to make sure you stay on the right side of the line.


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