By Jack Marshall
As Facebook ramps up its new "in-stream" video advertising, the social media company is attempting to avoid the brand safety headaches that have plagued rivals such as YouTube in recent months.
Facebook on Wednesday introduced new "monetization eligibility standards" it said are designed to provide more clear guidance on the types of content that will be allowed to have advertising run alongside it on the platform. It will also specify the types of publishers and video creators who can earn money from ads on Facebook.
The company said it would not place ads alongside content that focuses on tragedy, conflict or debated social issues, or that depicts acts or threats of violence, for example. It will remove ads from content that fails to comply with its guidelines.
To date, Facebook hasn't had to deal with advertising adjacency challenges to the extent many online media companies and ad platforms have, owing to the nature of its in-feed ad formats that appear as stand-alone entries as users scroll through their news feeds.
But as the company rolls out its new in-stream video ad product and hosts more publisher content via its Instant Articles platform, advertisers are beginning to ask more questions about what types of content their ads might appear within across the social network. The new in-stream ads will appear as ad breaks in the middle of publishers' videos, but won't be inserted in user-uploaded videos.
"We take very seriously our responsibility to earn and maintain the trust of our advertiser partners -- and give them the confidence they need to invest in us," Facebook's vice president of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, wrote in a blog post published Wednesday.
Facebook said it's now testing in-stream video ad breaks with hundreds of publishers, many of which are already creating content for its new video platform Watch. Plus, more than 10,000 publishers are now posting articles directly to Facebook using Instant Articles, which have gradually been allowed to carry more ads.
In an attempt to alleviate brand safety concerns, Facebook said that in the coming months it will begin providing advertisers with post-campaign reports specifying which publishers' content their ads appeared in, across in-stream videos, Instant Articles and its Audience Network ad network product.
Advertisers won't be given the ability to specify which content they want their ads appear alongside using "whitelists" of preapproved publishers. Rather, they will be required to "blacklist" specific publishers from their ad buys, or to remove categories of publishers Facebook deems to publish "sensitive" material.
Facebook said it would also provide marketers with a new tool that will offer a preview of which publishers' content their ads may appear alongside before their ad campaign begins.
While the new monetization eligibility standards will apply to videos and Instant Articles hosted on Facebook itself, they will not apply to the Audience Network, which allows marketers to target consumers across websites and properties outside of the Facebook platform.
Brand safety has been a growing concern for marketers in recent years as they try to reach more tailored audiences. Thanks to the rise of automated ad targeting systems and vast ad networks, it's become increasingly difficult to keep track of where their ads might show up.
Earlier this year, a number of big brands pulled their ads from YouTube after revelations that their ads ran alongside videos promoting anti-Semitism and terrorism, for example.
YouTube parent Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., vowed to do a better job policing its content and to give marketers more information about where their ads appear across the service, as well as setting a 10,000-view threshold for a video channel to reach before it can make money from ads. Some big advertisers have since returned.
Facebook appears eager to settle advertisers' brand safety nerves before it begins ramping up its in-stream video ads more aggressively, even though those ads won't run during user-generated videos as on YouTube. But the balance between brand safety and maximizing ad revenues can be a tricky one to strike.
Meanwhile, ad-buying agencies have been calling for online ad platforms to police their content more carefully, and to give advertisers greater transparency into their systems.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York on Tuesday, WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell said both Google and Facebook have been "responsive" to brand safety issues, but suggested they should do more.
"They are not tech companies or engineering companies. Google and Facebook are media companies. They have responsibility for the editorial that flows through their pipes. And I think they are slowly coming to the understanding that is the case," Mr. Sorrell said.
Marketers have also been calling for online ad platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to allow third parties to audit their brand safety claims.
Google promised to do so in April and now says it's working to implement verification technology for YouTube from DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science and comScore.
Facebook's Ms. Everson promised similar functionality in her blog post. "Our teams are partnering closely with third parties, such as DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science, to ensure the brand safety controls we create serve our advertisers' needs," she wrote.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 13, 2017 09:44 ET (13:44 GMT)
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