November 01, 2017

On Friday, Facebook announced ad transparency efforts geared towards political advertisers so that viewers would be able to tell who the advertisers are and see the ads they’re running. But the news will have a major impact on all brands that advertise on the network of platforms.

While Facebook announced that select federal-election related ad data will be public information (e.g., total spend, impressions, targeting demographics), they also took a step forward by announcing that all Facebook, Instagram and Messenger brand ads will be made available to the public (and archived) via a “view ads” button on a brand’s Facebook page. They are essentially dissolving dark posts.

This not only creates more transparency between a brand and a user, but between brands themselves. And while this transition may first feel like a hassle, it’s an opportunity for companies to embrace Facebook’s new ways of working to use the platform to their advantage. The updates aren’t set to roll out for U.S. advertisers until next summer, but here are a few tips to help brands start planning for the change:

  • There are New Advantages to Competitor Research: While brands and digital marketers often draw hypotheses about their competitive set’s advertising efforts, now they’ll be able to make more concrete conclusions by seeing the quantity of a competitor’s ads and what messaging they’re using. This includes how they’re differentiating themselves, and if they are testing new messaging or conducting market research. Facebook’s transparency efforts will help provide those answers.
  • Page Content Has More Power: Do brands feel comfortable showing the public and competitors that they may have posted 50 ads in a certain time period on the same topic? Probably not, if they want to keep their strategies a secret. It’s time to consider increasing the spend on page content to reduce the chances of giving away key priorities, products and messaging.
  • Stop Special Offers for Target Audiences: Facebook’s increased ad transparency efforts should make brands think twice about offering certain targets specific incentives (e.g., coupon codes, exclusive sales, etc.). It won’t make sense after dark posts are dissolved, because a brand won’t be able to create unique offers for target audiences unless they’re prepared to deal with those not allowed to take advantage of the offer.
  • Ads will Become a News Source for Journalists: Not only will brands be able to draw conclusions about competitors, but so will journalists, meaning a company’s “view ads” button will be used as another source to generate news content. And for brands, paid footsteps on the Facebook network will be held accountable.  
  • Tell Your Strategic Archived Story: Until this announcement, ads could be toggled on and off and deleted quicker than drafting this post. But that all changes now with a searchable archive. Brands’ ads will be used to tell a story, and marketers and advertisers should be as strategic as possible when ad planning. Getting the right message out there is more important than focusing on publishing a massive amount of ad varieties.

There are still questions that need to be answered by Facebook (e.g. Will all ad types be documented for public display? And, will Facebook share the length of promotion for each ad?), but remember that the demand for transparency online is today’s reality. So companies can’t shy away from what will be the new norm across media buys and platforms in the future.