FB Videos… Where Brands Fear to Tread

This isn’t the first time brands have expressed grave concerns over advertising placements on Facebook. The social platform’s brand safety measures have been notoriously bad at measuring up for the past several years.

The latest concern is around the increasingly crowded Facebook in-stream video ad program.

“Over the past month, the number of pages eligible to monetize their videos through Facebook’s in-stream ads program has leapt by more than 30%, with more than 24,000 pages joining the program in the past 30 days, according to a spreadsheet Facebook regularly updates for advertisers,” writes Max Willens in Digiday.

“The pages include everything from prank video and meme accounts to mukbang pages,” Willens continues, “which offer videos of people eating gluttonous quantities of food, and they are part of a longer-term push by Facebook to home in on YouTube’s ad business.”

While Facebook says all these pages are subject to their usual brand safety guidelines and approval process, agency ad buyers view this as a move to maximize inventory over brand safety.

“They’re prioritizing maximizing inventory at the expense of making it brand safe,” said Erica Patrick, VP of paid social at MediaHub. “You shouldn’t have to make a giant investment to get into brand-safe content.”

The giant investment Patrick refers to is the $100,000 investment needed to place ads in Facebook Reserve, a special selection of ad spots in original programming from media and entertainment companies. For the rest of us, Facebook’s been focusing on growing its stock of non-premium videos, from decidedly non-professional sources, which are purchased auction style. And it’s pretty sketchy what you might get.

Meanwhile, brands are saying that whitelisting is too time-consuming, and blacklisting, capped at 5,000 pages, isn’t nearly enough. One ad buyer called it an “untenable proposition.”

Context matters. We know that. Especially now, when the range of weirdness and divisiveness is growing by the minute. It’s why agency pros like Lindsey Boan of Madwell suggests giving it all wide berth.

“If you’re a client who’s concerned with those things, you just don’t run on the platform,” Boan said to Willens. “It’s not typically included in our base buys, and we honestly stay away from it unless we need it.”

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of Facebook; they drove us away back in 2015 and we haven’t regretted the decision for a moment. So while advertisers struggle to maintain their brand reputation, it looks like Facebook is become a dicier bet by the minute.