Will transparency lead to more intransparency on Facebook? [5 Reading Tips]
It was announced in April and has been implemented since June 28th: Facebook’s “transparency” offensive. Since the end of June, all ads on every Facebook page are visible to all users, regardless of their target audience. This not only applies to Facebook itself, but also Instagram, Messenger, and partner networks. This transparency offensive is to force the advertisers to more responsibility and improve the service for all.
But will this decision actually affect marketing and advertising activity on social networks?
Advertising in the shop window, for the first time
The reason for the change is clearly because of the scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica and the allegations that the 2016 US federal election was manipulated via Facebook. With the new features, the world’s largest network wants to make advertising more transparent, because now all users (and companies) can view all ads that a Facebook page controls.
For this purpose, a new subpage, which is called “Info and ads” is integrated into every Facebook page. It provides an overview of active ads – in all formats: Text, images, and videos. There are three points to the right of each ad through which any displayed ads can be reported in case of abuse.
In addition, users can see when the Facebook page was created and if there were name changes. In the coming weeks, Facebook also wants to expand this with additional information on the company’s websites.
More transparency, more competition
These features mean an end to so-called dark posts, but also better access to information for consumers and advertisers. This allows companies to snoop around on the Facebook pages of other companies and thus find out which imagery and wording the competition uses and what they achieve with it. You might suspect that many advertisers are now screaming, but Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that the majority of advertisers see the development as very positive. In addition, she doesn’t expect that the additional transparency has a negative impact on the number of advertisers on Facebook:
“I think advertisers for most part stand behind the ads they’re running,” Sandberg said. “You actually can see a lot of your competitors’ ads [already], you just have to catch them.”
Getting the most out of this now transparent – and unquestionably very valuable – data will only be a matter of time before the first tools emerge that help capture and evaluate advertisements in a structured way so companies can more easily observe competitors, find inspiration, and have an interesting market overview.
However, the information now available doesn’t contain additional data such as targeting or money spent. When Sandberg was asked about it, she acknowledged that Facebook still has some work to do in terms of true transparency.
And so, after just a few days, it becomes apparent how exaggerated transparency becomes a practice of intransparency, especially in competitive markets where every detail counts. Advertisers have already begun to hide the best ongoing campaign. Because that’s possible. How? For example, by having the main ads created on another Facebook page. The “real fan page” is filled, at the same time, with generic, cheap advertisements to confuse the competition purposefully. The idea and practice of Facebook are also quite different with regard to a new quality of transparency.