Why Russian Intelligence Influence on US Elections Affects Our Facebook Ad Strategy
Facebook ads will dramatically change in 2018. Having come under pressure, Facebook is moving to increase transparency for everyone who sees and buys (political) advertising on its platform.
Facebook announced that Russian influence had reached 126M people on its platform during the US election. Because of the Russian election interference, Facebook is doubling its engineering efforts and bringing more transparency into its advertising to crack down on these bad acts. Thereby, among other things, Facebook is bringing so-called dark posts into the light. Just a few years ago, dark posts were one of the best practice strategies for performing different ad tests — but all that is changing, Facebook intervenes into the strategy most marketers are currently using.
Dark posts are dying
The good thing about Facebook has always been that the target audiences are highly customizable. It is one of the foundations of Facebook that you can target users based on interest, location, demographics, engagement in your app etc., and provide relevant and tailored creatives to different users.
An ad served to a 30-year-old woman who likes football and lives in Indiana can be very different from the one tailored to a 50-year-old man who likes ballet performances and lives in New York, because the brand wants to communicate with them in different ways. Until now, there was no way for that woman or other users to know what the ad for that man looked like. These are the so-called dark posts that won’t exist anymore since the ads running on Facebook will now be viewable by anyone.
What to expect in 2018?
Facebook started to roll out its “View Ads” tab on pages in Canada last month. Clicking on this tab people are able to see all ads a page is running on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger — whether or not the person seeing them is included in the intended target audience for these ads. All pages will be affected by this change, and the feature will be rolled out in the US and all other countries by summer 2018.
For most pages, only active ads will be viewable and users will not be able to see any details about impressions, clicks or targeting related to those ads. But they’ll still get a full overview of that page’s paid ads.
The exception to this is political pages. Next summer Facebook will develop an archive of ads related to federal elections. The archive will provide details on total and average amounts spent on those ads, the number of times these ads were viewed, and how they were targeted. Beginning in the US, the archive will be searchable over a four-year period.
So far, brands have often used dark posts as a way of testing ads without having to show all their tests to everyone, which can be convenient when an ad misses the target or, even worse, slights people. Now the ads will be attached to the brands’ pages for as long as they are running. This ad transparency has to be considered in the conception of all campaigns. Even if you customize your messages to the users, you’ll have to be consistent with your messages. And you have to pay attention to possible legal aspects that might come into play. For example, the use of unlicensed images, the use of competitor brand names or the lack of labeling of consumption values. Brands will become more vulnerable thanks to the ad transparency. But it won’t be much different from what can already occur across other channels like TV or print, where everyone can view all ads too.
What does it mean for a marketer and why I think it’s a good thing
Although there are some concerns brands or marketers might have, this new feature will open a great new possibility to support your market research and to benchmark against competitors and best practice companies.
The new feature is a great chance to track and evaluate the advertising material your competitors and other idols use on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Based on the ads, you can relate to the A/B and split test variations a brand is testing at the same time and you see how these ads perform in terms of engagement.
This helps you to speed up the process of your competitor research.
It’s going to be interesting if players like SEMrush who help monitor competition in the world of Google Adwords are going to add a feature for Facebook competitive analysis.
I think this is definitely an interesting way to look at the competition’s approach. You can use this information while creating your own strategy, and receive new ideas for creating your creative variations. It also might make you think twice before writing an unsustainable ad — especially since we have reached the age of “quality over quantity”.
What do you think? How will this change things for your team? Do you believe it is enough transparency?