Is Facebook about to share your ad strategy with competitors?

Last Updated May 14, 2021

In a recent Facebook live session, Mark Zuckerberg addressed an ongoing investigation into the potential Russian involvement with the 2016 U.S. election.

UPDATE 10/27: In a recent newsroom post, Facebook confirmed that they will be applying this new standard of transparency to ALL advertisers (not just those with political interests). The changes will roll out to Canada first and then the United States by "this summer" (summer 2018).

The visibility into which ads are currently running will only apply to ads that are currently active.

Here's the full video recording here: 

Of particular interest to Facebook advertisers is his third point about raising the level of transparency for advertisers (3:30)

"So we're going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser's page and see the ads they're currently running to any audience on Facebook," 

Now to be sure, there's context here that suggests this change may only refer to political advertising. Zuck references the existing regulations around TV and other media political advertising prior to this statement, and the investigation itself is concerned with political interference from "foreign actors".

What does this mean for your Facebook Ads?

If this change ends up applying to all Facebook advertisers, this will have far reaching implications for how anyone runs campaigns on the platform. To date, it has been relatively easy to keep a winning campaign strategy private.

This is has been a key difference between Facebook and other forms of digital advertising like paid search or display, where tools like SpyFu and SEMrush offer a wealth of competitive insights.

Is this change fair to advertisers?

On one hand, we can all embrace the value of transparency and appreciate Facebook's desire to be above reproach with their advertising ecosystem. On the other hand, advertisers have spent millions in testing to find the right combination of messaging and audience targets.

If this change applies outside of the political sphere, all advertisers should prepare for a lot of copycat behavior.

One potential postiive outcome here is that this change will reward advertiseres who invest in original branded content, like video, which is harder for would-be competitors to rip off and make their own.

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