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Facebook Marketing Brand Safety

Facebook rolls out whitelists and better live stream controls in brand safety tweak


By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

May 12, 2020 | 5 min read

Facebook is retooling its brand safety features, rolling out whitelists that better allow brands to control the content their ads are seen next to.

Facebook rolls out whitelists and better live-stream controls in brand safety retune

Facebook has rolled out whitelists and better live stream controls in a brand safety push.

The expanded toolkit will see the implementation of two types of whitelist.

To let brands create whitelists of publishers for the off-Facebook, app-based Audience Network, it has introduced publisher whitelists. Facebook will look to expand this to in-steam video later in the year.

And a content-level whitelisting tool will be available to advertisers that are clients of ad-vertification partners Integral Ad Science, OpenSlate and Zefr.

Allowing advertisers to work with partners to create ‘dynamic content sets’ through this tool, partners will be able to update and adjust video content placement ‘routinely’.

The retooling of brand safety features follows on from tests on a select group of advertisers last November, which were largely welcomed by brands.

While advertisers were already able to see where their ads might appear, Facebook decided to make the controls more sophisticated in ordr to dial back advertisers' brand safety concerns.

Overzealous blocklists

While the introduction of whitelists to Facebook's platform has been widely welcomed, the roll out comes amid a fight against blocklisting.

In their quest for protection from ad misplacement, advertisers around the globe are doubling down on automation and, in particular, blocklists.

One side-effect of blunt blocklisting has seen top media owners penalised to the tune of $3.2bn a year across the US, UK, Japan and Australia according to research from real-time brand safety business Cheq.

LGBT+ publishers have been particularly hurt by the application of blocklists. A further study from Cheq found 73% of LGBT+ stories are flagged as ‘brand unsafe’ with terms like ‘lesbian’, ‘bisexual and ‘drag queens’ making it onto advertisers keyword exclusion lists.

Beyond the introduction of whitelisting, Facebook will now let advertisers opt out of its in-stream ad testing from pre-vetted entertainment, news and sports partners.

While this was already available at campaign level, this option will now be provided at the ad account level.

Cracking down on Covid-19 misinformation

Facebook’s decision to offer advertisers more control over their ad placement follows mounting pressure to better moderate the content within its walls.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, fake news has re-emerged as a sore spot for Facebook.

To counter growing issues emerging from the spread of fake news, the platform stopped advertisers from targeting people interested in ‘pseudoscience’ as it attempted to crack down on coronavirus misinformation.

And over in India, the platform introduced a chatbot and news hub – designed to debunk coronavirus falsehoods after the Indian government issued an advisory to social media companies to clamp down on the circulation of false information.

Facebook is not alone in facing brand-safety criticism, with the behemoth’s key rival Google experiencing some brand safety issues of its own in recent weeks.

To close loopholes exploited by bad actors in pursuit of ad fraud, as of April Google now requires advertisers running ads across its platform to verify their identity.

Prior to the pandemic, one in four advertising dollars went to the Facebook-Google duopoly. However, both members are expected to post a downturn in advertising revenues as brands tighten their belts amid Covid-19.

Other major platforms are also fighting against downward ad spend. While Apple experienced an ‘uptick’ in product sales towards the end of Q2 2020, it has admitted its advertising business has taken a hit, as companies pause search spend on platforms such as the App Store.

On the broadcasting side, ITV revealed last week (6 May) that demand for advertising in April fell by 42% year-on-year, with total revenue down 7% at £694m.

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