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Over the past two weeks, several of the largest online ad platforms have taken swift steps to address problems with advertisers attempting to profit by stoking fears during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube have all responded in unique ways to stop the flow of misinformation, prevent profiteering, and provide new resources to protect public health.

Google Ads Blocks Advertisers Capitalizing on Crisis

This week, Google Ads updated its Inappropriate Content policy to specifically disallow content which:

“…potentially capitalizes on or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards a natural disaster, conflict, death, public health emergency, or other tragic event.”

The new regulation specifically cites price gouging, selling essential supplies that are in high demand but scarcely available, or ads that use sensitive keywords to manipulate their click-through rate.

For more details about which strategies to avoid and what keywords to be careful about using during this time, check out the full help page Google Ads has created for advertisers.

Google and Bing Block COVID-related Ads

Initially, Google had introduced a policy which entirely disallowed advertising products or services related to coronavirus across the entire platform. However, recent reports suggest they have internally revised this policy to make an exception for trusted organizations like hospitals, medical providers, or other major organizations attempting to provide reliable information to the public.

The search engine is also blocking the sale of face masks on its ad platform, following similar policies from Facebook.

Bing has taken similar steps by blocking all ads related to COVID-19, except those coming from trusted sources.

As a Microsoft spokesperson explained:

“Microsoft Advertising has taken precautionary measures to block ads for delivery related directly to COVID-19 under the Microsoft Advertising Sensitive advertising policy. This precaution also applies to some COVID-19 related medical supplies. We will only allow Public Service Announcements from trusted sources, such as official Govt. agencies, to promote COVID-19 content.”

Facebook and Instagram Block COVID-19 Ads, Create New Resources

Since March, both Facebook Ads and Instagram have been blocking the sale of face masks on their platforms. The policy has since been expanded to include hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes, and COVID-19 testing for children.

At the same time, Facebook has created several new resources for both businesses and the general public, many of which can be found in the new “Marketing for Uncertain Times” deck which contains industry playbooks and general advice for staying informed.

Twitter Gives Advertisers Leeway

After originally banning any and all ads which mentioned “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, Twitter has revised its ad policies to allow some advertisers to mention the virus.

As the company explains:

“In response to the shifting advertising landscape, and in order to support helpful causes during this time, we’re now allowing managed clients and partners to advertise content containing implicit or explicit reference to COVID-19 in certain use cases, with restrictions.”

The specific cases Twitter will be allowing are:

  • Adjustments to business practices and/or models in response to COVID-19
  • Support for customers and employees related to COVID-19

Despite this, Twitter says it will continue to block ads which include:

  • Distasteful references to the virus
  • Content that may be sensational or likely to incite a panic
  • Inflated prices or products related to the virus
  • Ads for face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, supposed vaccines, or treatments.

TikTok and Pinterest Partner With WHO and Red Cross

TikTok and Pinterest have taken similar steps as others by blocking ads which “reference coronavirus, including when promoting products or services, to create a sense of fear, or to cause widespread offense”, as a TikTok spokesperson said.

In addition, these platforms have also been working with major health organizations around the globe to help spread relevant information and prevent misinformation.

Pinterest has been redirecting any searches on the platform to official content provided by the WHO to prevent the chance of delivering custom results which could be difficult to monitor for disinformation.

TikTok has taken similar steps by donating in-feed ad space to notable organizations including the WHO and Red Cross to ensure users have access to helpful information.

YouTube Blocks COVID-19 Ads Except From Trusted Sources

YouTube’s ad policies have largely been in-step with Google’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, the platform would not allow any form of monetization on content relating to the coronavirus, citing “sensitive topic guidelines.”

Since then, the company has taken some steps to loosen that policy by allowing news organizations and reputable creators to produce videos about the issue in a sustainable way.

In a letter to the community, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained:

“In the days ahead, we will enable ads for content discussing the coronavirus on a limited number of channels, including creators who accurately self-certify and a range of news partners. We’re preparing our policies and enforcement processes to expand monetization to more creators and news organizations in the coming weeks.”

Despite this allowance, the company stresses it will continue to remove content that violates its policies or spreads misinformation.

After nearly a year of testing, Facebook is finally launching search ad placements for all advertisers. That means anyone can now run ads within News Feed and Marketplace search results for any search with commercial intent – such as queries related to e-commerce or retail.

Currently, search ads only appear in results on mobile devices.

In the announcement, Facebook describes how the ads appear and function within search results, saying:

“The ads are designed to fit the experience on the given search results surface (Marketplace search or general search). They look similar to News Feed ads and have the same transparency and controls, including a “Sponsored” label so it’s clearly marked as paid placement.”

To have your ads appear in search results, advertisers can simply select “Automatic Placement” or the “Facebook Search Results” placement when creating or running News Feed ad campaigns.

Notably, advertisers will have little control over how the ads are targeted, aside from broad people-based targeting options. Instead, Facebook will target the ad based on a number of details including keywords, ad features, ad text, product category, and more.

Currently, the ads support three specific campaign objectives, including Product Sales, Conversions, and Traffic Objectives.

Banner Image courtesy of Launchpresso

 

Facebook is cracking down on brands using its advertising platform to mislead or trick users with “malicious advertisements”.

As the social network announced this week, it is reducing how often it shows ads it believes are “clickbait” or mislead users, if not outright rejecting them.

As Facebook’s self-serve ad platform has grown, it has encountered growing issues with misleading or sensational ads – including political news spreading fake news. Now, it is working to remedy the problem and ensure users can trust ads shared across the largest social network existing today.

Specifically, Facebook has announced it will be cracking down on these types of troublesome ads:

Ads that withhold information:

Facebook Bad Ads - Withholding

Clickbait has become a popular way to get clicks, but it is universally hated because the actual content on the page often doesn’t live up to what the sensational headlines promise. This has grown into deliberately sharing vague ads that often start with “You’ll never believe…” or “You’ll never guess…” Now, any ads using this strategy will be demoted or disallowed.

Engagement bait:

Facebook Bad Ads - Engagement Bait

Another popular tactic to get the ever-important likes and shares on Facebook is to specifically use ads to drive these kinds of engagement without delivering any actual content with value. Facebook has already taken steps to prevent this type of advertisement, but it has continued to run rampant across the platform. However, the company says these ads will now be disallowed or receive reduced visibility.

Sensationalized language:

Facebook Bad Ads - Sensationalized Language

Over-the-top headlines may make people more likely to click, but it leaves a bad taste in their mouth when the content is not nearly as “MIND-BLOWING” as the ad suggests.

Pages that use these strategies regularly:

To reinforce its stance on clickbait or misleading advertising, Facebook is also taking aim directly at the pages which rely on these ads. As the company explains, “multiple ads flagged with low-quality attributes may impact the performance of all ads” from any offending advertiser.

All of these types of ads have become increasingly popular because they drive engagement and traffic, but these types of engagement are arguably worthless because they don’t come from real engagement or appreciation of the ad content.

Facebook is finally allowing all advertisers to run ads during users’ Stories.

The social network has been allowing a limited number of brands across three countries to create ads that appear during Stories published on the site since May, but this is the first time the company has expanded the option to smaller businesses.

Notably, during this time period, the number of people watching Facebook Stories each day has more than doubled from 150 million to over 300 million viewers.

In addition to making the ads available to a wider range of brands, the company has also rolled out a number of new tools and features to better target the ads and improve performance.

As part of these features, Facebook Stories now allow brands to optimize for all objectives available for Instagram Stories ads, including:

  • Reach
  • Brand awareness
  • Video views
  • App installs
  • Conversion
  • Traffic
  • Lead generation

Facebook has also brought all of its targeting and reporting tools for ads to Story ads, allowing brands to better track their performance.

As part of the official announcement of Story ads, Facebook emphasized how popular their Story feature has become and the impact of ads viewed during Stories:

“Advertising in stories has proven to drive valuable business outcomes. In the Ipsos survey, 62% of people said they became more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in a story. And brands testing Facebook Stories ads are already seeing results. iHeartRadio, Kettle Chips and KFC are among the advertisers who have seen brand lift from their Facebook Stories ad campaigns.”

The company also noted some other interesting statistics about Stories, such as:

  • More than half of people surveyed said they’re making more online purchases as a result of seeing stories.
  • 38% of people said that after seeing a product or service in a story they talked to someone about it.
  • 34% said they went to a store to look for a product after seeing it in a story.

Facebook is changing how it handles the ads shown by Pages across the platform, with a new “Info & Ads” section that details all the ads your Page is running.

By going to a Page’s “Info & Ads” tab, you’ll be able to see every ad the company is running across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook’s partner networks whether they were targeted to you or not. You can also flag suspicious ads with a “Report Ad” button.

The tab will also include detailed information about Pages, including when it was created and any recent name changes to the Page.

“The vast majority of ads on Facebook are run by legitimate organizations — whether it’s a small business looking for new customers, an advocacy group raising money for their cause, or a politician running for office. But we’ve seen that bad actors can misuse our products, too,” writes Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, and its product marketing director, Emma Rodgers, on the company’s news blog.

The change was initially announced last October as part of sweeping changes to how Facebook handles political ads but has largely flown under the radar until now.

Facebook says this is just the beginning of changes to increase transparency between Pages and the social network’s ad platform. The company will be rolling out changes to political ad labels to Brazil ahead of the country’s upcoming elections and will continue to encourage greater transparency in advertising around the globe.

Facebook is opening up a new part of its platform to advertising by letting businesses run ads in the Facebook Marketplace for the first time.

Marketplace has, until now, been an area of the site strictly reserved for users to buy and sell items. However, that is changing as Facebook is allowing ads to also be shown alongside the user-sold items.

The actions function similarly to any other type of Facebook ad, allowing you to include photos or videos representing your products or services, as well as a call-to-action button.

You can also choose to expand your currently running ads onto the Marketplace platform by changing the placement settings for your ads.

In the official announcement, Facebook said the ads would allow advertisers to be where users are most active:

“Advertising across our platforms enables you to reach your target audience wherever they’re spending time, giving you more opportunities to connect with people likely to be interested in your offerings.”

According to Facebook’s tests with select businesses, running ads on Marketplace can help generate up to 2.2X greater return on ad spend.

While this marks the first time businesses have been able to advertise on Marketplace, it is notable that Facebook recently also began allowing users to promote their listings within Marketplace, similar to how promoted posts work in News Feed.

Currently, Marketplace ads are only available in the US and Canada, and only eligible for traffic, conversion, and product catalog ads.

According to the announcement, Marketplace ads will be coming to Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks.

Facebook’s Stories are officially being monetized, as the social network announces new ads within their latest big feature.

The rising popularity of Facebook’s stories has been a slow growth. It has taken approximately 14 months since the launch of the feature to reach 150 million daily views.

To put that in context, Instagram’s Stories reached the same milestone within five months. Since then, Instagram Stories have continued growing to reach more than 300 million daily users.

Of course, now that Facebook has amassed a sizable audience for the feature, Search Engine Journal reports the platform is adding ads to Stories.

Facebook began testing ads in Stories earlier this month in North America and Brazil earlier this month. The ads consist of 5-to-15 second video clips, which can be skipped by simply taping through to the next story.

Compared to most of Facebook’s offerings, these new ads are relatively bare-bones. There is no click-through, no call-to-action, or any of the other ad features you are used to. However, Facebook plans to add those soon.

Along with the launch of Story ads, Facebook is working on bringing more detailed analytics about the performance of Stories to businesses, to help monitor your investment.

If you already have Story ads running on Instagram, you can automatically migrate them to Facebook. Or, you can let Facebook automatically format your news feed ads for the Story feature, including a color-matched border and text at the bottom.

Facebook’s Instant Articles are touted as being the fastest way to deliver content on the web. They are even supposed to be faster than Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, which similarly streamline content to load as quickly as possible on mobile devices.

There’s just one problem: no one seems to be using them.

Even big publishers that initially led the charge to Instant Articles have slowly started dropping the service, opting instead to use regular content hosted on their website or relying solely on Google’s AMP platform.

This week, Facebook made strides to attract publishers back to Instant Articles by announcing new ways to implement ads and monetize content shared on their fast-loading pages.

The ads are designed to be minimally invasive, only appearing within the “Related Articles” section appearing below the full articles. The company has been testing these ads since March of this year, and say they provide an “incremental increase” in the amount of revenue generated by Instant Articles, according to a blog post shared on Thursday.

As you can see in the image above, the ads look similar to most advertisements across Facebook. They put the focus on a large image, with a small bit of descriptive text and a link. For now, videos aren’t allowed but that could potentially change in the future.

The main difference between these ads and standard Facebook News Feed ads is they now appear at the bottom of the page among links to other articles, instead of in your feed.

There is one catch, however. To include the new ads in the “Related Articles” section of Instant Articles, you must also be a part of Facebook’s Audience Network.

Interestingly, Facebook says the ads can be used for virtually anything – not just branded content. The only requirement is that the ads link directly to a landing page.

While the ads may bring publishers back to using Instant Articles, the advertisers themselves may be less happy about the new ad placement. Advertisers who opt-in to placing their ads in Instant Articles can’t control whether they are prominently placed above the ad or within the “Related Articles” section at the bottom. The good news is, they can choose to block specific publishers or types of content from including their ads. That means you can at least be sure your ads aren’t appearing alongside questionable or objectionable content that could hurt your image.

messenger

Facebook has been expanding their advertising service across every aspect of their platform for years, but one area has remained completely ad-free for users despite this – until now.

Facebook has officially launched ads within its Messenger app with ad bots.

The company has been testing sponsored messages since April, and now it has announced it is opening the messaging app’s ad format to all brands using Messenger’s developer tools to manage their chats.

636141993368026582-ad

The ads are pretty much exactly like the format they have been testing, with straightforward ad messages. However, you can’t spam out ads to everybody. You can only show sponsored messages to those who “have an open, existing conversation with” a brand, according to Facebook.

To help with this limitation, the company says it is also allowing advertisers to create ads that link directly to their Messenger account to spark more conversations with brands.

The ads are also limited to just one link and photo. Unlike most Facebook ads, sponsored message campaigns also cannot be modified to automatically run on Facebook or Instagram.

In another departure from Facebook’s normal ad formats, the company says it will charge advertisers anytime the ad appears on a Messenger user’s screen in their Messenger Inbox – even if it is never opened.

facebookadvertising

Earlier this year, Facebook was excited to announce that over three million businesses actively advertise on their social ad network. Now, just seven months later, the company has added another million businesses to that number.

In comparison, Facebook’s biggest competition in the social advertising field, Twitter, only took in a little over 130,000 advertisers in the fourth quarter of 2015. The Facebook-owned social platform Instagram announced last week that it has reached 500,000 brands purchasing ads each month, more than doubling from around 200,000 in February 2016.

Really, the only ad network that counters the size of Facebook’s is Google, and they no longer say how many advertisers are active on their network.

While the highlight of Facebook’s advertising announcement was the overall growth in advertisers, they also highlighted just how big of a factor mobile is in their ad network. Not only do more than 80% of Facebook’s advertising revenue come from ads shown on smartphones and tablets, but approximately 40% of Facebook’s active advertisers also have created ads on mobile devices.

Another major player in Facebook’s ad network is video advertising. More than 20% of Facebook’s active advertisers have purchased video ads, and over four million new video ads are created on Facebook every month.

While every social network has its benefits, it is hard to argue with the sheer size of Facebook’s ad network. No other social platform gives you the massive audience and versatile tools that make Facebook ads so popular with advertisers.