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How Russian Spies Forced Facebook Marketers To Go Full-Frontal

by Dennis Kibirev November 7, 2017

Last month, Facebook promised to force uber-transparency on its entire cadre of advertisers. Which, unsurprisingly, includes every brand that you’ve ever heard of.

It would be an understatement to say that this is a big deal. And it definitely raised a few worried eyebrows in brandcountry and agencyland.

How to Cavity Search One Million Internet Marketers

Yes, that’s millions of businesses, large and small, that will experience the equivalent of being thrust fully-clothed onto a nudist beach and asked to, ehm, strip into their birthday suits. An awkward situation, at best, for a majority of Facebook’s well-paying clientele.

This month, brands of all shapes and sizes will have to face this bittersweet symphony, with Canadian marketers being first in line for their advertising cavity searches.

Placing Your Ads Under the Transparency Microscope

While talk of transparency in programmatic has been on the tip of the industry’s tongue for a while, Facebook decided to make it a ‘non-thing’. Or, rather, expose everyone’s ‘thing’ to the rest of the world. A rare move by the social media behemoth that is typically known for choosing total opacity over any sort of transparency.

And who’s to blame for this surprise opening up of the kimono? If you guessed some advertising industry body or human rights group then you’re wrong. In this case, the symbolic scapegoat assuaging Facebook’s transparency-related guilt pangs has a two-headed eagle on its totem pole.

Don’t Tread, I Mean, Troll On Me

A Russian government-backed group of hackers known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) aka Glavset aka ‘Your Friendly Neighborhood Troll Farm’ is the reason your Facebook marketing campaigns will now be scrutinized under an honesty microscope.

This whole kerfuffle started as a result of the IRA supposedly placing bogus political ads during the recent election by an army of Russian internet trolls. In turn, this to led to Mark Zuckerberg officially announcing his newfound desire to shine a permanent light on each and every Facebook ad being run on the social network to prevent such anti-democratic behaviour in future.

So, how will this affect your Facebook marketing?

Preventing Spies From Spreading Lies

Firstly, you can rejoice because programmatic transparency finally manifested itself, albeit in such an unexpected way. And on a platform that few marketers would previously even suspect of making such a move. I mean, Facebook. Really?!

The implications for you as a marketer are as follows:

  • The proposed ‘View Ads’ feature will allow any user to see all ads run by a particular Page.
  • The ads review system will place higher emphasis not just on an advertisement’s content but also factor in the context of the ad buy and the target audience.
  • The approval and enforcement process will become more stringent as Facebook plans to recruit over a thousand people for their international ad review team.
  • Buying political ads will involve a more thorough advertiser background check.
  • These changes will apply to Messenger and Instagram ads too.

As far as Mr Zuckerberg & Co are concerned, these measures will leave trolls with nowhere to hide.

Viral Kitten Video As Final Outpost of Democracy

Unless you’re in Canada (in which case you want to start checking for skeletons in the closet ASAP), the solution’s release is flagged for mid-next year, timed to coincide with the 2018 US midterm elections. But you may want to start thinking about any ramifications now.

How could such an extreme degree of transparency impact your social media strategy? Hopefully, the answer is, not at all. If your answer is anything but then it will pay to bite the bullet now before ad ‘strip searches’ become a mandatory part of every Facebook campaign launch.

We’ll just have to wait and see how many videos of cute kittens disappear from the network as a result. And then see if any other social platforms decide to follow Facebook’s lead.

In any case, it’s a step in the right direction for programmatic transparency. Not too mention democracy. Let’s just hope that not too many viral kittens fall victim to the update.