When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Facebook's brand safety measures met with caution

Facebook’s latest measures to provide greater safety for advertisers using its retargeted ad tools have met a tepid response with brands including M&S, Nationwide and Sky reserving judgement on the new capabilities. 


The social network announced a new review policy to restrict the possibility of branded ads appearing on pages containing offensive content late last week in response to brands pulling Facebook ads in the wake of recent domestic violence controversy, highlighted by the Everyday Sexism Project.

The newly announced review policy promises to expand the scope of Pages and Groups that are ‘ad-restricted’ through its staff manually checking content on the network to ensure they are safe for branded ads to appear against them. 

For example, Facebook will restrict ads from appearing on pages containing any violent, graphic or sexual content permitted by its community standards whereas previously a page selling adult products was eligible to also contain ads.

Facebook says it will remove ads from such pages by the end of this week and it will build an “automated way to prevent and/or remove ads appearing next to controversial content” in the near future. 

Some of the brands that pulled – or at least suspended – advertising on the social network in light of the policy change have yet to publicly register a vote of confidence in the changes. 

Nationwide is continuing its boycott of ads on the social network but is continuing to “monitor developments”, according to a company spokesman. 

Sky, which suspended ads from the social network after finding its ads “adjacent to offensive material”, has asked for further safeguards in the wake of the row but has yet to recommence advertising on the network. 

A Sky spokesman says: “We understand that Facebook has developed some proposals, which we look forward to discussing with them.  We continue to keep the situation under review.”

Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer also said it would also monitor developments but still continue to suspend its use of retargeted ads on the social network, via its Facebook Exchange (FBX) service, until further notice when contacted by Marketing Week. 

An M&S spokesman says: “We are now working very closely with Facebook to understand the measures that they are taking to try and prevent this from happening again.”

David Ellison, ISBA’s marketing services manager, welcomed the latest move by Facebook.

“We acknowledge that this is an industry-wide problem and that it will be impossible to ensure that ads never appear against illegal or inappropriate content.

“However, Facebook’s new processes, together with other initiatives to ensure that ads don’t appear on illegal websites, will help to give advertisers increased confidence in advertising online.”

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