Carolyn Everson, is on a mission to make Facebook safe for brands. Everson, the Facebook vp of global marketing solutions, has made the twin issues of transparency and brand safety a cornerstone of her talks with the advertising world for much of the past year.
Today, at the technology conference Dmexco, outside Cologne, Germany, Everson released an op-ed outlining the path forward for Facebook to address problems on both fronts, giving marketers reliable data about their ad campaigns and establishing content ground rules for the social network, especially in its new video hub called Watch. That’s where any video creators can host a channel for their show, and share in ad revenue just like on YouTube.
Here’s what Everson said today — and what we suspect she really means:
This past summer, I attended the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, one of the year’s biggest gatherings for advertisers. There, some marketers told me they are feeling uneasy. Chief among their concerns are the issues of viewability, online ad metrics and brand safety.
Translation: Is there some kind of brand talking points memo circulating? Because you all are really starting to sound alike. But I get it: Digital ad problems have been exposed everywhere this past year, and Facebook played its part. There was that time we miscalculated video views to brands that relied on our numbers, even if those weren’t quite related to ads. We even just got slammed for showing advertisers the number of people they could potentially reach in a given location, and it’s possible that number was greater than the amount of people who physically existed in that location. And of course, we were a focus of false news and disinformation campaigns around the election, and nefarious websites used our network to drive viewers to their malicious websites, making money from a toxic political environment.
We hear them loud and clear.
At Facebook, 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. That’s critical to their success and ours.
Translation: At Facebook, it may have taken us longer than necessary — heck first we even denied that we could have impacted the presidential election — but here we are. And now we are doing everything necessary to make sure brands feel safe and trust us.
Which is why today, we’re introducing new monetization eligibility standards that will provide clearer guidance around the types of publishers and creators eligible to earn money on Facebook, and the kind of content that can be monetized. These standards will apply to ad placements where context could matter, including in-stream ads and Instant Articles.
And because brands also want to know where their ads are delivered, we’re also announcing that in the coming months, we will begin providing advertisers with post-campaign reporting that clearly identifies the publishers that their ads ran on across Instant Articles, in-stream ads and Audience Network.
Translation: We want you to buy ads in our new video service, and we promise it won’t be anything like YouTube. We won’t share ad money with any video creators that could ever give anyone any offense, ever. And, we will let you control where ads run. Well not really, you can control where they don’t run. And if your ad accidentally runs in a bad place, we will be sure to tell you.
Together, these standards and tools will give advertisers the clarity and control they need to run their campaigns.
I’d like to also clarify the additional steps we’re taking with regards to third-party verification and brand safety.
Additional third-party verification
When it comes to verifying ad performance, Facebook has been accused of “grading our own homework.” Even though the display and video ads that we deliver on Facebook and Instagram can already be measured and verified by third parties, we recognize the industry’s desire for more independent third-party validation.
Translation: Say “grading your own homework” one more time. I dare you. Look at all these third-party measurement firms we nicely let look into our data. You call that “grading your own homework?” And if those firms are not enough we will over the next 18 months work with Media Ratings Council to apply its standards everywhere. Sure, we’ve been working MRC since December of last year already. Don’t ask why it takes so long.
That’s why we’re seeking accreditation from the Media Rating Council, the US-based nonprofit industry organization that reviews and accredits audience measurement services in three key areas: first-party served ad impression reporting, third-party viewability partner integrations and upon launch, our new two-second video buying option. The first accreditation review is currently underway and our plan is for the others to follow.
Over the next 18 months, we’re working to achieve MRC accreditation across display and video on Instagram, Facebook and Audience Network for impression counting, viewability measurement and two second video buying. We’re committed to working with industry leaders around the world to advance the quality of advertising measurement. For example, in Germany we are working with the AGF to find a new solution to report reach across media.
Translation: We’re working with MRC, if that doesn’t prove we are willing to go the distance, I don’t know what will. I mean, MRC is from the television era, and we are totally willing to accept its opinion on what is and what isn’t viewable on digital devices. We will even grant two seconds as a standard even if the young digital savants that scroll through Facebook consume content like they’re the Lawnmower Man.
Our commitment to third-party measurement and verification is clear. We first started working with third-party measurement partners in 2008. To date, we have 24 partners in our measurement system, such as Oracle Data Cloud, Nielsen, Kantar Millward Brown, as well as three partners measuring viewability: Moat, Integral Ad Science and comScore. And we’re in the process of adding two new viewability partners, DoubleVerify and Metrics.
Translation: We can add any third-party data firm you want, if you really think they will be any better than our own data and you want to pay for their services. Go right ahead.
These reviews and partnerships help with viewability verification. They’ll also help us deliver the most accurate metrics possible to our partners. We know how important it is to provide the right insights to our clients so they can focus on business growth. We’re not perfect. But we are striving for accuracy, and these third-party verification efforts will help identify potential issues.
Brand safety—new advertiser controls
Keeping our community safe is critical to our mission, and there is absolutely no place on Facebook for hate speech or content that promotes violence or terrorism. As soon as we determine that content has breached our Community Standards, we remove it. With a community as large as Facebook, however, zero tolerance cannot mean zero occurrence. Every week, our community reports millions of pieces of content to us for possibly violating our Community Standards. To speed up our process of reviewing those reports, we’re adding an additional 3,000 content reviewers, nearly doubling our existing team.
Translation: Brace yourselves. There is no way to police a social network of 2 billion people and expect to catch every offensive post out there.
Our teams are partnering closely with third parties, such as DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science, to ensure the brand safety tools and controls we create serve our advertisers’ needs. DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science are also determining the most effective ways to support advertiser requirements and manage their brand safety controls on Facebook. Additionally, we are in the process of joining the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) “Certified Against Fraud” program, given our longstanding commitment to combating fraud on Facebook.
With regards to brand safety, generally, people who view content in News Feed implicitly understand that the individual posts they see are not connected to or endorsed by the other posts in their feed—from brands or anyone else. That being said, content adjacency might still be a concern for other ad placements in which the disconnect between content and advertisement may not be as clear, such as Instant Articles and in-stream ads on Facebook, and placements on publisher’s sites and apps through Audience Network.
Translation: Listen brands, most people understand that your ad is not sponsoring that horrific crime story two posts down in the News Feed, so calm down. Adjacency is not a big deal in the feed. But in our new ad breaks inside videos, we understand brands don’t want to show up in just anyone’s content. I mean look at PewDiePie, we understand that.
So, in addition to offering placement and category opt-outs, next week, we will begin to roll out pre-campaign reporting. At launch, this tool will give advertisers a preview of partners using Instant Articles and in-stream videos on Facebook as well as publishers monetizing their sites and apps via Audience Network. For Audience Network, we expect the full list of publishers on the complete set of formats to be available by October. Post-campaign reporting will begin rolling out in the coming months.
Translation: Here are some controls for you to decide where your ads run, but it’s more of a blacklist to avoid content producers and topics. And we will even tell you where your ads ran after the fact.
We want all our partners to have the information and tools they need to feel confident advertising on Facebook. We’ve made significant progress this past year on some of the major issues, but we’re not done. We still have further to go.
As the ad landscape continues to change, we’ll continue to work with our advertising partners to understand their needs and work with them to build a more brand-safe digital advertising ecosystem. We are committed to nothing less.
Translation: We know there is bound to be another crisis, or some new example where Facebook fails. We did just go a whole presidential election and not realize we were being overrun by fake news and manipulated by Russian troll farms. So, yeah, there’s more to do.