blog: Don Marti


making people cry in the stairwell: your best online brand-building value?

26 November 2019

(point of order: I'm just going to say "brand-unsafe context" here because we already know way too much about all the worst-case places where a Facebook ad might run. Excuse the marketing speak, but I'm not getting paid enough for this blog to think any more about all the redacted on Facebook than I have to. Follow the links if you really want to read about where your Facebook ad runs.)

Facebook makes the news in unpleasant ways, but so far this hasn't had much of an impact on the company. The decision-makers who matter are the people who buy the ads, from huge companies all the way to individual small business owners typing their credit card numbers into Facebook Ads Manager. And those decision-makers are still buying ads. Revenue is up.

Facebook does some magic algorithm shit to match your ad to people likely to click on it, and some of those people click on it and buy something. And for many advertisers the price of the ads is less than the expected increase in profit driven by the buyers the ads bring in. The two possible alternatives for the Facebook advertiser so far are...

  • someone sees the ad and clicks it

  • someone sees the ad and doesn't click it. Not good, but not actively bad either.

The ad might be running in a brand-unsafe context, as Sacha Baron Cohen recently pointed out. But Facebook management doesn't believe that running in a brand-unsafe context is bad for the advertiser. The worst the users can do is not click. Facebook Has Fewer Brand Safety Controls For News Feed Ads–On Purpose.

“We don’t believe ad adjacency matters in certain environments…and we designed the platform with that in mind,” said Erik Geisler, Facebook’s director of North American agency partnerships, speaking Thursday at 614 Group’s Brand Safety Summit in New York City.

Basically he's bragging on being able to take your brand's ad and run it in whatever brand-unsafe context the worst possible Facebook user can come up with. According to Facebook, you know all that stuff that has moderators crying in the stairwell and one service company quitting the moderation business entirely? Don't worry about it because people are going to click on whatever ads run there, like nothing happened.

Even if that was true before, to be honest I've never placed an online order while crying in a stairwell, don't know about you is brand safety still not going to be an issue in 2020?

The way the game works today is that the Facebook users can click or not click. But in the near future, things get a little different. The three options will be:

  • someone sees the ad and clicks it

  • someone sees the ad and does nothing

  • someone sees the ad in a brand-unsafe context and tries to get to the bottom of it

How does the cost of dealing with people who have a problem with a brand-unsafe context affect the game? In other ad media, user concerns about brand safety can have a material effect on the market.

So here's my first attempt at a letter to send to the brand advertiser whose ads you see in a brand-unsafe context. Just like it's pointless to report a scam to Facebook, exception to that rule: reporting a Facebook scam matters if you're Craig Silverman calling for a comment on a story. Then they take care of it. don't report brand-unsafe content to them either. Just screenshoot it and send your CCPA letter to the advertiser.

This letter refers to the European and the new Kenyan law too. IMHO better to make the advertiser look up which should apply, so we can all use the same letter.

Any suggested improvements? Please let me know.

Bonus links

“We’re wounded animals and wondering if they’re going to shoot us”: Publishers have, um, cooled on partnerships with platforms

YouTube’s opening up ads for ‘edgy’ videos signals shift in brand-safety sentiment

Google Will Let Companies Limit Ad Personalization To Facilitate CCPA Compliance

The Halo Effect: How Advertising on Premium Publishers Drives Higher Ad Effectiveness

The precarious state of local news giants

NYT says it will no longer use tracking pixels from Facebook and Twitter, instead using TAFI, a new AI-powered tool, to target potential subscribers

New Research Finds Americans Support Greater Regulation to Protect Their Data Online

Ad targeting key to why internet giants face blame for undermining elections, democracy

A precious-metals scheme used fear and Facebook to trick older conservatives out of their savings

Programmatic – don’t believe the hype