“Does this Facebook ad need a disclaimer?” It’s about to.

Facebook is rolling out changes this summer that will make political, advocacy, and issue advertising on the platform more secure and transparent.

For the first 10 years of the company’s existence, Facebook’s motto was “move fast and break things.” In the past few weeks, that motto seems to have become “move faster and fix everything.” The company’s use of data has come under intense scrutiny as it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a firm linked to the Trump campaign, systematically harvested data on an estimated 87 million Facebook users.

Facebook has vowed to cut off third party data providers from the platform and to make it harder for advertisers to target users based on their email addresses. Mark Zuckerberg has testified before Congress. Twice.

Significant changes are afoot across the platform as Facebook scrambles to prove that your data is safe and that the company is a good actor. For advertisers, particularly in the political, advocacy, and issue space, that means contending with new measures aimed at increasing transparency around messaging, creative, and spend, and verifying your (real) identify.

Below is a look at four changes expected to roll out in the next several months and what they mean for your campaigns.

View Ads Feature

Who is impacted: All advertisers

How it will work: As we wrote about in October, Facebook is rolling out “view ads,” a feature that lets people see the ads any Page is running across Facebook and Instagram. Upon visiting a Page, people will have the option to view all active ads currently associated with the Page, even if they are not in the target audience.

What it means: This change is aimed at increasing creative and messaging transparency. People will not be able to see how the ads are targeted or how much the Page advertiser is spending, but they will be able to see every permutation of live creative. Past campaign creative will not be archived or accessible from the view ads feature.

When it will be launched: Facebook has been testing view ads in Canada since the late fall and will roll out the feature globally in June 2018.

Increased Requirements For Authenticity

Who is impacted: Advertisers running political, advocacy or “issue” ads

How it will work: Advertisers who run political, advocacy or issue ads will need to confirm their identity and location before they can launch electoral, legislative, or issued-based advertising campaigns. Facebook is still finalizing the list of issues that will trigger the need for advertiser authorization. Tentatively they are screening for any ad that “focuses on political topics being debated across the country,” even if there is not an electoral or legislative call to action. All advertisers running campaigns with an explicit call to action, including “Tell your elected officials,” will be need to be verified.

What it means: You will no longer be able to create a new ad account (or multiple new ads accounts) and immediately thereafter launch political, advocacy, or issue ads. Facebook will proactively identify and reach out to existing advertisers in this space to begin the authorization process. New advertisers should anticipate a lag between account setup and launch, allowing for the verification process to take place.

When it will be launched: Facebook is already testing the authorization process in the US and plans to expand the process to additional countries in the coming months.

“Political Ad” Disclaimers

Who is impacted: Advertisers running political, advocacy or “issue” ads

How it will work: In addition to requiring authorization for advertisers, political, issue, and advocacy ads will now include a disclosure label that reads “Political Ad” in the top left corner of the ad, with “paid for by” information next to it. The “paid for by” disclaimer will match what the advertiser uses in other media, including on television and in print.

What it means: This change is aimed at holding advertisers more accountable. Political and advocacy advertisers will be required to disclose themselves on Facebook just as they do in other media. Facebook is still working on defining exactly how “issue ad” will be define and how organizations with 501(c)3 status will be affected.

When it will be launched: People will begin seeing the label and disclaimer in the US later this spring.

Public, Searchable Political Ads Archive

Who is impacted: Advertisers running political, advocacy or “issue” ads

How it will work: In June, Facebook is planning to release a public, searchable political ads archive. The archive will contain all ads with the “Political Ads” label, and will provide the image, text, amount spent, and high-level gender and age demographic insights for each ad. There are two significant differences between this database and the aforementioned view ads feature. The first is that ads in the database will include spend and demographic information, where “view ads” is limited to the ad creative. The second is that while view ads is intended to give you a look into what ads a Page is running at a given time, political ads will remain in the database for four years. There will be no historical look-back; only ads launched beginning in June 2018 will be searchable.

What it means: Moving forward, journalists, consultants, other campaigns, and voters will have ready access to Facebook political, advocacy, and issue advertisers creative and spend. While it remains to be seen how quickly Facebook will post this information – in real-time, or only after an ad campaign has ended – this is a huge leap in social ad transparency, where competitive intelligence is notoriously hard to come by.  

When it will be launched: The database is expected to launch in June.

So what does this all mean? For those of us who live and work in the political, advocacy, and issue space, advertising on Facebook is about to get more interesting and more complicated. We’ll be able to see what ads other companies, organizations and campaigns are running. And we’ll need to operate under the assumption that our own competition, not to mention the media, are looking for the same information on us. This changing landscape means it’s time to revisit your social media advertising strategy and make sure that your team understands the new rules of engagement. As the new features roll-out, our team will be able to provide new insights and recommendations on how best to optimize creative and targeting, given these new features.

Any questions in the meantime? We’re here: digital@globalstrategygroup.com

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