The Cambridge Analytica scandal which occurred in early 2018 was a major moment in the public’s understanding of how data is used and misused online. Millions of Facebook user data was taken without consent and used in advertisements to influence elections.
The exposure of Cambridge Analytica’s deeply dubious audience targeting tactics was undoubtedly a good thing for the advertising industry and society as a whole. The scandal has not only acted as a call to arms for each of us to examine the ethics of our advertising practices but has also brought some practical changes which we need to be aware of.
Page transparency was introduced in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
What is Facebook page transparency?
In May of 2018 in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook created a searchable archive of ads relating to political issues. Information on page creation dates, merges, name changes and the location of page managers also became available.
On March 28th 2019, the Facebook Ads Library and associated page information was extended to include the majority of advertisers in most regions of the world.
The following information is either already or soon to be available for all pages:
- Facebook page creation date
- Facebook page name changes
- Facebook page merges
- Facebook page managers’ country
- All active ads – creative & start date
Below is an example of the page information available for Amnesty International Ireland.
The following information is available only for political or public issue-related ads:
- Total ad spend
- Individual ad spend
- Individual ad impressions
- Inactive ad creatives & dates (last couple of months)
- Individual ad audience demographics (gender & location)
Below is an example of the information for one of Amnesty International Ireland’s ads:
How Facebook page transparency affects your brand
For most brands, Facebook page transparency will have no effect. Your customers and prospects are unlikely to even realise that this information is available to them.
In fact, customers don’t need to search the Ad Library for this information, they may simply stumble across it under the About section of your Facebook page. See below:
Even if page visitors do come across your page transparency information they’re still unlikely to care about it. Having said this, as anyone who’s worked in PR or customer service knows it’s the minority that often has the biggest impact on your reputation.
Potential page transparency pitfalls to look out for may include:
- Ads showing a special offer which is not being made available to all customers
- Pages managed by people who are located outside the target audience’s region
It may not be practical or indeed wise to avoid these type of situations, however, you can anticipate any negative reaction and prepare a response should you be challenged.
Make sure that anyone dealing directly with your customers is aware of your Facebook ad strategy, anticipate problems and prepare solutions before you need them.
Of course, Facebook page transparency could help your brand reputation. A long-standing page which has had no name changes or merges promotes trust. Seeing the number of and locations of managers can suggest that a page is being actively managed.
Using Facebook page transparency for competitor research
One of the unintended consequences of Facebook page transparency is the wealth of competitor data which it provides. You can use this data to inform your strategy.
If you see that a competitor is not advertising on Facebook – you could:
- Use this opportunity to reach an audience that they’re missing
If you see that a competitor is advertising on Facebook – you could:
- Gain ideas and adapt them to improve your own ads
- Identify the ad tone and target to differentiate your ads
- Create targeted campaigns to directly challenge their offering
If you see that a competitor is addressing social issues in ads – you could:
- Consider whether your brand should be taking a social/policy stance
You can have a lot of fun using the new Facebook Ads Library to research your competitors, scope out new markets and examine other industry players.
Competitor research is useful but you should always remember that the customer is your primary focus. Be original, be true to yourself and be valuable to your customers.
Online advertising funds an open internet that allows global knowledge sharing, spreads ideas and provides a platform for activism. If we want the world wide web to remain open and free for all we as advertisers need to learn to walk the line.
Facebook page transparency is one step towards a more transparent advertising industry. Let’s take this opportunity to bring greater transparency to all aspects of our marketing.
This small change is unlikely to have a big consequence for most businesses today but it is important to watch this space as wider-reaching changes are undoubtedly on the way.