Facebook is looking to avoid YouTube's pitfalls by providing marketers a slew of tools to keep their ads away from less desirable content

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on May 1, 2018 in San Jose, California.

  • Facebook is rolling out new brand-safety tools that will let advertisers see where their ads will appear before and after they run.
  • It’s one part of a bigger pitch that Facebook plans to make around brand safety and transparency in the coming weeks, according to sources.
  • Facebook also recently opened the floodgates to video advertising within Watch, which could lead to added brand-safety snafus as more ad space becomes available. So Facebook is looking to get out in front of any potential issues.

Facebook wants to prove that it has the technology chops to address marketers’ brand-safety concerns – before something really bad happens.

The tech giant is rolling out new tools to monitor when ads might appear next to dicey content – think a graphic video or a controversial news site like Breitbart. While Facebook has stepped up its efforts to police content, including hiring 3,000 people to specifically keep content from being shared on the platform, brand safety is subjective for a lot of advertisers and many marketers have asked for more control around where their ads appearing.

The moves come on the heels of a string of high profile mishaps in the digital ad realm, as big marketers found their commericals running alongside less than desirable content. This brand safety challenge became particularly acute on YouTube, leading to several brand ad boycotts.

Facebook seems to be looking to get out in front of any such challenges – or at least send the message to marketers that it has a handle on brand safety.

Facebook hasn’t always given advertisers the complete transparency they want

A year ago, Facebook rolled out a set of brand-safety tools and the newest round of updates seems intended to build on those efforts.

Three types of ads are considered “contextual,” according to Facebook: In-stream ads that run during videos, ads that appear in fast-loading Insant Articles pages and Facebook Audience Network (or FAN), Facebook’s programmatic-like network that places ads on hundreds of publishers’ sites.

Facebook is adding a tool that allows marketers to block specific publishers from campaigns that run within Instant Articles and in-stream videos before they run. For example, a media buyer can cherry pick specific publishers or categories of content like violence or debatable issues like politics.

Up until now, publishers have only been able to place those parameters around ads that run within FAN where brand safety within programmatic targeting is often a concern for marketers.

For marketers that don’t nitpick over whitelists and blacklists, Facebook has tested providing so-called publisher delivery reports once FAN and in-stream campaigns are live but advertisers have complained that they are not able to see where ads run beforehand when campaigns are planned across multiple ad formats.

To address those concerns, Facebook is rolling out a tool that will let marketers see a list of where their ads may appear before they run across all three ad formats.

“We’ve been working with advertisers to build more controls and we’re taking another step forward today,” said Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vp of global marketing solutions, in a statement. “Now all advertisers, from global brands to local businesses, will have access to comprehensive publisher lists and delivery reports to better control where their ads appear.”

All these moves are part of a broad push around brand safety that Facebook plans to unveil during New York’s Advertising Week in a few weeks, according to two sources.

More ads ads coming to Facebook Watch, as are more controls

After a couple of years of pushing significant amounts of video onto the platform, soon Facebook will alllow for a much wider range of publisher to run ads next to their content.

So Facebook wants to help brands make sure their ads run alongside the appropriate Watch content as well.

Specifically, two weeks ago Facebook quietly opened the spigot on video ads when it rolled out Watch globally. Up until now, a small – but steadily growing – percentage of US publishers have had access to ad breaks that run within videos.

When Facebook flipped the switch on Watch across the world, it included guidelines around how creators can make money from ad breaks that play during their videos.

  • Publishers are eligible for ad breaks if they have generated 30,000 views (which are calculated as one minute) from their content over the past two months.
  • Pages must also have 10,000 Facebook followers.
  • The program is limited to publishers in the US, Australia, UK, Ireland and New Zealand and will expand to 21 other countries including Mexico and Belgium later this month.

In other words, any publisher that meets the standard will soon be able to make money from Facebook’s various video ad products. That’s potentially a lot of videos that can suddenly have ads next to them.

YouTube also allows a wide swath of creators and publishers to make money from their videos, though the company has had to make significant changes to its platform ad ad program over the past year to win back advertisers after its brand-safety crisis.

Brand-safety snafus are bound to pop up on Facebook from the the millions of pieces of content that are piped into the platform, but the company is at least trying to get ahead of problems that have plagued YouTube in the past year, which could finally open up discussions with ad buyers about shifting big gobs of TV money to the platform.

“Influencers, small publishers and people who don’t have someone on the other end of the phone at Facebook are going to start to realise that they can put their videos on Facebook and make money,” said a source.

“I think they need to have that scale with content – later on in Q4, they’re going to have a very different conversation going on with brands to have a real ‘move your TV dollars here’ conversation.”

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