Facebook shoots for transparency in advertising

By Teamspirit on Monday, 6 November 2017

Facebook is preparing to roll out new rules around advertising transparency – and the changes may require financial services to rethink their ad strategies.

The new rules come off the back of a difficult few months for the tech giant. It’s now clear that foreign interests used Facebook ads in an attempt to influence last year’s US election and to inflame tensions on both sides of the political divide.

With the story dominating headlines, Facebook, Twitter and the like have come under pressure to increase advertising transparency, and last week Facebook announced its proposed solution.

It comes in two parts: firstly, any political advertiser will have to verify their identity and their location. Political ads will include a ‘Paid for by’ disclosure, which consumers can use to learn more details about the advertiser.

For financial services, the second part is more relevant. Starting next month, users in Canada will be able to view all ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger, whether or not the person viewing it is in the ad’s intended audience. They’ll also be able to see why a certain ad was served to them.

Of course, advertisers have been tailoring messages to their audience since the days of street callers, but previously it’s been largely invisible to the consumer. Now, users will be able to see exactly how a message has been adapted to them and other demographic groups.

It’s difficult to know how the public will react. On one hand, an increased understanding of the ad buying process may offer reassurance about how their demographic data is being used.

On the other, seeing a ream of information around their age, ethnicity, gender, political leanings and salary – not all of it knowingly provided – could provoke a negative response among a public already concerned about privacy and invasive advertising.

For financial services, the changes might seem threatening. But for an industry with its fair share of trust issues, they offer an opportunity for transparency, accountability and open engagement with audiences – and that can only be a good thing.

With the rollout starting in Canada next month and expanding to the rest of the world by summer 2018, we’ll be keeping a close eye on developments.

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