Facebook’s latest decision is sure to generate controversy and leave many companies and marketers unhappy. As you may already know, a federal investigation into alleged Russian tampering into the last US presidential elections, has led to the discovery a number of Russia-backed pages which targeted ads and posts to specific audience clusters, in order to shift the electorate in favour of Donald Trump. Facebook estimates that around 126 million users were served content from Russia-linked pages. Scorned by the election’s results, long time Democrat financeer Mark Zuckerberg has therefore announced that Facebook will publish the database of all the advertisements booked by both commercial and political pages as well as the list of the socio-demographic clusters targeted by these pages.
“When it comes to advertising on Facebook, people should be able to tell who the advertiser is and see the ads they’re running, especially for political ads,” said Rob Goldman, vice president of advertising, in a blog post. “That level of transparency is good for democracy and it’s good for the electoral process.” As from November, a new “View Ads” link will appear on advertiser pages. Clicking the link will take you to a page that shows all ads that the page is running.
The big issue for commercial pages (and therefore for you) is that from now on your competitors will be able to access all the advertisements that you have published, as well as the targeting options (including age, location, and gender) that you have used to reach your audience (of course you can do the same with your competitors’ pages). Basically your Facebook strategy will be there for everyone to analyze, copy or improve upon.
Pressure groups and lobbies have been known for bankrolling and influencing political campaigns all around the world for decades. As a mainstream media, it was only a matter of time before Facebook started being targeted by these lobbies. While Zuckerberg’s move aims at increasing transparency, it may also scare advertisers away from Facebook, while lobbies will simply move to other platforms to push their agenda.