Facebook's ad transparency move will let you check up on your competitors

Following recent discovery that there was Russian interference in the US Elections on Facebook, Facebook has plans for new transparency tools and measures. This will allow users and brands to tell who the advertiser is and the ads they are running – this is especially for political ads.

However, the measures are not limited to political ads, explained Facebook in a blog post.  This will allow all users, including brands, to click “View Ads” on a Page and view ads which a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, in the process giving them a look into competitor Facebook ad activity. This is regardless whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad.

“All Pages will be part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Page as part of the ad creation process,” the post explained. The measures are effective next month and will be tested in Canada before roll out to US and broadly to other countries at around the same time. The initial test will only show active ads.

The move comes days after Twitter launched the Advertising Transparency Center in a bid to “dramatically” boost transparency for all ads on its platform, including political and issue-based ads. In a blog post, Bruce Falck, GM revenue product and engineering, Twitter, said that it will also be improving controls for consumers and embracing stringent advertising policies. The updates will first roll out in the US before launching globally.

For Rika Sharma, managing partner, group head of Social@Ogilvy Singapore, the move is a definite indicative of the "walled gardens" of big social media networks such as Facebook coming down as more people want transparency. When asked about what the move means for marketers, Sharma said that more transparency essentially comes with greater clarit,y and the need for more responsibility on the advertisements that are put out.

Advertisers have to be more accountable as testing is no longer easy.

She added that now, marketers need to be wary of A/B testing the same advertisement with multiple messages, and be geared for potential backlash that might arise from doing so.

Read also: Is it too late for Facebook to apologise for its inflated video metrics?

A more level playing field?

Sharma explained that following the move, there will be a bigger onus on marketers to spend more time on research and really understand their competitors' work on its social media platforms.

For marketers, it's now a level playing field with competitors since everyone’s ads are visible.

"Any change on the platform will also brings with it a unique creative opportunity. Marketers might use this change to their benefit and engage consumers in a high involvement activation across a series of multiple ads," Sharma said.

"People want transparency and consumers find themselves in the unique position of being like Will in Netflix's Stranger Things, about to experience 'True Sight' for the very first time. Their perception of the world will never be the same," Sharma explained.

Agreeing with Sharma was Andrew Stephens, CEO, Ambient Digital, who said:

"Although we have seen broad improvements in the recent years for ad governance, it is imperative that brands, publishers, agencies and even digital media players remain diligent and dedicated in the ongoing efforts to promote transparency."

To better leverage the new features, marketers in Asia need to focus on highly-targeted cross-device digital advertising, including mobile, Stephens added.