Facebook announced today that it will begin testing news feed topic exclusions for advertisers this year. Citing advertisers’ brand safety concerns, Facebook says the new feature would allow marketers to choose whether or not to show their ads alongside potentially sensitive content: “For example, a children’s toy company may want to avoid content related to a new crime show, so they could select the ‘Crime and Tragedy’ topic,” the blog announces  .
Topic exclusions. Along with Crime and Tragedy, other topic exclusions being tested include News & Politics and Social Issues, according to a Facebook spokesperson. The idea is to give advertisers more control over where their ads may appear in a user’s newsfeed and means brands will be able to ensure that their products and services don’t show up next to topics the brand doesn’t associate with or believe in. Facebook says they “will continue to listen and learn during the test,” so there could be more topic exclusions added or the currently planned exclusions could evolve.
Brand safety. This announcement is even more relevant given the political turmoil that started 2021 and the quick action many brands had to take to ensure their advertising and organic messaging wasn’t insensitive or positioned poorly. Brand safety  isn’t a new topic with 2021, but it’s taking on more importance as companies work to avoid any potential fallout from being seen parallel to extremist political movements that have fomented on social media platforms like Facebook.
Brand safety experts explain that exclusions (especially around breaking news) may not always be the best options for advertisers. “Brands have gotten into a habit of blocking ads after negative news events or pausing them entirely because they believe these stories are an unsafe environment for their brands,” Nandini Jammi told Search Engine Land earlier this month. However, advertising adjacent to reliable news sources can often help build trust around brands.
Privacy considerations. The announcement also mentions privacy considerations for users, but when asked for comment, Facebook’s response was vague: “Privacy is core to all of the tools we develop and this product is no different.” The social networking platform is working under the Global Alliance for Responsible Media ( GARM  ) to help improve digital safety and this announcement falls under that initiative.
In an October 2020 blog, Michel Protti, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Product said that the social network’s updated Privacy Review Process “helps ensure every new product or feature is built with privacy in mind, meaning it has the appropriate tools and processes in place to help address potential risks and protect people’s information.” It’s still unclear how that process will come into play with the new ads topic exclusion.
A Facebook communications spokesperson told Search Engine Land: “This is the first time a Feed environment will be managed through controls. Before release, we need to understand ad performance and efficacy while honoring our commitment to privacy. These factors mean this will be a complex and time-intensive process and we’re committed to doing the work to get this right.”
Why we care. Facebook testing topic exclusions for advertisers could give marketers more control over their brand safety options. Previously, advertisers created blocklists of keywords to exclude, but this option could give you more control over where ads are placed in the Facebook News Feed, especially in regard to sensitive content. It’s critical that advertisers take their exclusions seriously and understand what the implications of broad-sweeping exclusions can mean for their brands and their metrics. While it makes sense for a children’s brand to exclude topics like crime and tragedy from their advertising, there may be more nuance for other types of brands around the news and social issues exclusions.
- ^ blog announces (www.facebook.com)
- ^ Brand safety (searchengineland.com)
- ^ GARM (wfanet.org)
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