Facebook Lets Brands Blacklist Publishers

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Advertisers will be able to opt out of specific publishers in Instant Articles.
Advertisers will be able to opt out of specific publishers in Instant Articles. Credit: Facebook

Facebook is giving advertisers more control over where their ads run, allowing them to opt out of appearing near content from specific publishers, according to new policies announced on Wednesday.

"We will show you all the publishers or pages on which your ad could theoretically run," said Michel Protti, Facebook's director-product marketing. "Then you can uncheck a subset of them so ads don't run in these places."

Facebook is touting "pre-campaign transparency," where it will disclose more information about the content advertisers could encounter through Instant Articles, mid-roll video ads, and Facebook Audience Network.

The idea is to give the advertisers more certainty that their ads won't show up alongside objectionable videos.

Facebook has allowed advertisers to opt-out of categories of content, and even manually submit select publishers to avoid. However, the blacklist process was cumbersome and not very transparent. Until now, Facebook wouldn't disclose every publisher that could be eligible for ads through Instant Articles and other content partnerships. If an advertiser wanted to avoid a certain publisher, it could say so, but brands had very little information to go on about what publishers were available.

The new policies streamline the blacklists and give more sunshine into participants.

Facebook delivers ads into Instant Articles and inside videos, which are created by publishing partners, and it splits revenue with the creators of the content. The publishing programs are meant to encourage the the highest quality articles and videos from premium partners, while helping them make money for those efforts.

This keeps people locked into Facebook and opens more ad inventory.

The problem is that publishing partners have been pulling way from Instant Articles, because they typically can't make as much from ads in those fast-loading Facebook posts as they can from their own sites.

Facebook has also been tinkering with ways to help media partners make money from videos posted to the network, and it has been testing mid-roll video ads. However, these video programs have been slow to catch on because they don't always make enough money to cover what publishers put into it.

"Facebook launches a lot of products, but more often than not they haven't met expectations," one top publishing partner said.

The new policies are geared toward helping advertisers feel comfortable extending campaigns to Instant Articles and mid-roll videos by giving them more say over where their ads run, and the intent is to invigorate the programs, Protti said.

Advertisers won't be able to dictate exactly where their ads appear. They can, however, block a set of domains and publishers.

"We want to reach scale," said one Facebook advertiser, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's always a risk if you only want Cosmo or Washington Post, you may not achieve that audience scale, but the ability to target is a good enhancement."

Facebook doesn't let advertisers specifically pick the publishers they want to appear near, because it claims that would conflict with the publishers' own sales teams.

However, advertisers want as much transparency and control as possible, especially since the spotlight has grown on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. There now have been countless examples of objectionable and shocking content spooking advertisers on every major platform.

YouTube recently began offering more controls to advertisers and limiting the types of content that receive ads. It was prodded into taking tougher measures after some ads ran in front of video from extremists, terrorists and otherwise unsavory characters.

"It's really important to offer this degree of control to advertisers whenever we deliver an ad experience that's deeply linked with content around it," Protti said.

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