Are Facebook’s garden walls finally being knocked down?

Anybody who’s come into contact with Facebook Ads Manager knows that accessing any useful insights into your campaigns is like drawing blood from a stone. As such, we could only dream of them giving us access to a competitor insight tool – think the business version of trying to stalk your blind date after Facebook upped their privacy settings in 2014. Paid Search has Adthena, SEO Linkdex – so why doesn’t Facebook have one? All that could be about to change with the introduction of a new feature that will essentially allow businesses to ‘spy’ on competitors ads.

One minute you’re not able to even pull a report split by your chosen targeting segments, the next they give you the means to see every single active ad your competitor is running, – along with how much they’re spending and who they’re targeting – with one single click. So what prompted this giant step? It all stems from that time it came out that a Russian political group had been pushing political messages in ads during the US presidential election. The ads were seen by approximately 10 million people and focused on race, immigration and LGBT treatment, and 44% were seen before the election on the 8th November 2016 – some starting as early as 2015.

The new feature, named ‘View Ads’ (bonus points to the genius behind that one), will enable anyone to click a single button on any Business Page which will then display all active ads across the three platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Messenger), even if the person looking is not in the target audience of that ad. It’s being rolled out in Canada first, with plans to extend this to the US by summer and hopefully all other countries will shortly follow suit.

facebook view ads tool for transparency screenshot

The difference with political ads moving forward is the extra layer of security, requiring buyers to verify their identities, and all election-related ads to include a disclosure that tells the consumer who they were “Paid for by”. Of course, you cry, there will be hundreds of organisations that will point blank refuse to do this!? Well, Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s plans to hire 1,000 people to review the content, context and targeting of adverts, as well as investing in machine learning to assist and automate the process.

Further steps Facebook is taking to manage the above include tightening restrictions on advertiser content and expanding their policies ”to prevent ads that use even more subtle expressions of violence”. What exactly Facebook classifies as ‘subtle violence’ is currently unclear. They also mention working together with other companies such as Twitter – who have also admitted to being affected by Russian interferers – as well as governments to share information of known malicious accounts, ads and the strategies troll use to banish them from every platform.

So, is this Facebook giving us a competitor analysis tool? Perhaps not, but it can only be a good thing. After all, no one can forget about that ad category disaster back in September (if you’re reading this Facebook, we still want targeting strategies as a reporting breakdown).

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