Facebook’s issue ads policy continues to frustrate media buyers

Facebook held a press call on July 24 to share updates on its election integrity work, which includes acting on fake news during elections and its ad transparency efforts. By its own admission, Facebook has been improving, but there’s a lot more to be done.

Facebook said it removed 10s of thousands of fake likes and profiles prior to the recent general election in Mexico. Diego Bassante of Facebook’s LATAM politics and government team admitted it wasn’t perfect.

“Some areas we could have done better such as moving faster against bad actors, but overall we think Facebook helped with races helping more Mexicans get involved,” Bassante said.

Facebook shared some data about its recently released ad transparency tool, where all Facebook ads can be viewed. People can see information about targeting and dollars spent for political ads. Popular terms include California, Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Kavanaugh and Trump, said Facebook’s product manager of ads Rob Leathern.

This fall, Facebook will release an application programming interface that will allow researchers to further analyze Facebook ads. Facebook will release details on how and with whom it’ll share an API, Leathern said.

So far, Facebook’s effort on election integrity have frustrated media and marketing execs. The fact that InfoWars, a so-called news site that shares conspiracy theories about Sandy Hook victims and falsely accuses government officials of participating in child rape, still can post on Facebook has confused media reporters.

Tessa Lyons, a product manager on News Feed, clarified Facebook’s policy on removing content, without naming InfoWars.

“If you are who you say you are and you’re not violating our community standards, you can keep posting on Facebook. People will disagree with our actions on individual causes both when we remove things and when we don’t,” Lyons said.

Meanwhile, media buyers have been frustrated by the barriers that Facebook introduced to run ads that may or may not be political. The issue ads policy requires any advertiser who wants to run a Facebook ad related to 20 issues such as abortion, guns and immigration to register as a political advertiser. That includes submitting an government ID and verifying through a mail system.

But even after completing that process, Facebook’s system is not approving all of the ads the buyers believe adhere to the policy.

“It’s a horribly done rollout to say the least. I have [an] ad in multiple colors, and only [a pink one] is not approved. The one that is driving all the sales,” said David Herrmann, director of advertising at Social Outlier.

Classified as political advertiser on Facebook
An email from Facebook that an ad wasn’t approved

The policy continues to affect even the largest media buyers. One wrinkle is the new requirement that individual employees within an agency are verified and have full access to an advertiser’s Facebook Page.

An executive at a top global agency told Digiday, “We are still working through the challenges presented by verification of individual employees. We are also still working through false positives flagged as ‘issues’ advertisements and are awaiting more information on how this is planned to be deployed in Brazil.”

Facebook reps have been working on these problems with some media buyers individually. Joe Leverone, a programmatic media buyer, said he had a call with Facebook after an ad didn’t run.

“Everything was verified and all that but [Facebook] wouldn’t let me run,” Leverone said. “I had to be ad account admin and full page admin. We don’t usually need full page admin for when we advertise for a company. In this case, the sheriff candidate of the campaign I was working on had to let me also be an admin of his campaign page.”

During the press call, Facebook’s Leathern said the company continues to look to streamline the process.

One recent change Facebook made is providing examples of what ad copy would require authorization and further explaining how to adhere to the rules.

“At first, it won’t be perfect, but we can do more to educate advertisers on this new process,” Leathern said.


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