Facebook’s new authorization process for political ads goes live in the U.S.

Earlier this month – and before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress – the company announced a series of changes to how it would handle political advertisements running on its platform in the future. It had said that people who wanted to buy a political ad – including ads about political “issues” –  would have to reveal their identities and location and be verified, before the ads could run. Information about the advertiser would also display to Facebook users.

Today, Facebook is announcing the authorization process for U.S. political ads is live.

Facebook had first said in October that political advertisers would have to verify their identity and location for election-related ads. But in April, it expanded that requirement to include any “issue ads” – meaning those on political topics being debated across the country, not just those tied to an election.

Facebook said it would work with third parties to identify the issues. These ads would then also be labeled as “Political Ads,” and display the “paid for by” information to end users.

According to today’s announcement, Facebook will now begin to verify the identity and the residential mailing address of advertisers who want to run political ads. Those advertisers will also have to disclose who’s paying for the ads as part of this authorization process.

This verification process is currently only open in the U.S. and will require Page admins and ad account admins submit their government-issued ID to Facebook along with their residential mailing address.

The government ID can either be a U.S. passport or U.S. driver’s license, a FAQ explains. Facebook will also ask for the last four digits of admins’ Social Security Number. The photo ID will then be approved or denied in a matter of minutes, though anyone declined based on the quality of the uploaded images won’t be prevented from trying again.

The address, however, will be verified by mailing a letter with a unique access code that only the admin’s Facebook account can use. The letter may take up to 10 days to arrive, Facebook notes.

Along with the verification portion, Page admins will also have to fill in who paid for the ad in the “disclaimer” section. This has to include the organization(s) or person’s name(s) who funded it.

This information will also be reviewed prior to approval, but Facebook didn’t detail that process in the related FAQ.

Instead, the company simply says: “We’ll review each disclaimer to make sure it adheres to our advertising policies. You can edit your disclaimers at any time, but after each edit, your disclaimer will need to be reviewed again, so it won’t be immediately available to use.”

Along with the launch of the new authorization procedures, Facebook has released a Blueprint training course to guide advertisers through the steps required, and has published an FAQ to answer advertisers’ questions.

Of course, these procedures which will only net the more scrupulous advertisers willing to play by the rules. That’s why Facebook had said before that it plans to use A.I. technology to help sniff out those advertisers who should have submitted to verification, but did not. The company is also asking people to report suspicious ads using the “Report Ad” button.

Facebook has been under heavy scrutiny because of how its platform was corrupted by Russian trolls on a mission to sway the 2016 election. The Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies with election interference earlier this year, and Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts associated with disinformation campaigns.

While tougher rules around ads may help, they alone won’t solve the problem.

It’s likely that those determined to skirt the rules will find their own workarounds. Plus, ads are only one of many issues in terms of those who want to use Facebook for propaganda and misinformation. On other fronts, Facebook is dealing with fake news – including everything from biased stories to those that are outright lies, intending to influence public opinion. And of course there’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which led to intense questioning of Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of revelations that millions of Facebook users had their information improperly accessed.

Facebook says the political ads authorization process is gradually rolling out, so it may not be available to all advertisers at this time. Currently, users can only set up and manage authorizations from a desktop computer from the Authorizations tab in a Facebook Page’s Settings.

YouTube ads for hundreds of brands still running on extremist and white nationalist channels

It’s been more than a year since YouTube promised to improve controls over what content advertisers would find their ads in front of; eight months since it promised to demonetize “hateful” videos; two months since it said it would downgrade offensive channels; and yet CNN reports that ads from hundreds of major brands are still appearing as pre-rolls for actual Nazis.

The ongoing failure to police billions of hours of content isn’t exactly baffling — this is a difficult problem to solve — but it is disappointing that YouTube seems to have repeatedly erred on the side of monetization.

As with previous reports, CNN’s article shows that ads were running on channels that, if YouTube’s content rules are to be believed, should have been demonetized and demoted instantly: Nazis, pedophiles, extremists of the right, left, and everywhere in between. Maybe even Logan Paul.

And the system appears to be working in strange ways: one screenshot shows a video by a self-avowed Nazi, entitled “David Duke on Harvey Weinstein exposing Jewish domination. Black/White genetic differences.” Below it a YouTube warning states that “certain features have been disabled for this video,” including comments and sharing, because of “content that may be inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”

A cheerful ad from Nissan is running ahead of this enlightening piece of media, and CNN notes that ads also ran on it coming from the Friends of Zion Museum and the Jewish National Fund! Ads from the Toy Association ran on the channel of a guy who argued for the decriminalization of pedophilia!

I can’t really add anything to this. It’s so absurd I can barely believe it myself. Remember, this is after the company supposedly spent a year (at the very least) working to prevent this exact thing from happening. I left the headline in the present tense because I’m so certain that it’s still going on.

The responsibility really is YouTube’s, and if it can’t live up to its own promises, companies are going to leave it behind rather than face viral videos of their logo smoothly fading into a swastika on the wall of some sad basement-dwelling bigot. “Subway — eat fresh! And now, some guy’s thoughts on genocide.”

Some of the other brands that had ads run against offensive content: Amazon, Adidas, Cisco, Hilton, Hershey, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Netflix, Nordstrom, The Washington Post, The New York Times, 20th Century Fox Film, Under Armour, The Centers for Disease Control, Department of Transportation, Customs and Border Protection, Veterans Affairs the US Coast Guard Academy.

I’ve asked YouTube for comment on how this happened — or rather, how it never stopped happening.

PlayingViral helps marketers grabs millennials’ attention with quick, interactive surveys

PlayingViral founders Steven Wongsoredjo and Michael Rendy

Millennials have been accused of possessing shorter attention spans than goldfish. Though that claim is questionable, online marketers know display ads and even sponsored content are no longer enough to attract twentysomethings. PlayingViral gives brands a new way to lure young consumers with embeddable surveys and quizzes that use machine-learning algorithms to reach the right audiences.

The second Indonesian company accepted into Y Combinator (after bill payment platform Payfazz), PlayingViral finished the accelerator program last month and is now getting ready to expand in the United States, Canada, Brazil and other markets.

PlayingViral is part of Nusantara Technology, a tech and media group that develops marketing tools for clients, including Proctor & Gamble, that want to reach young Indonesians. So far, the company has received investment from former Sequoia Capital partner Yinglan Tan through his new firm Insignia Ventures, former Indonesian Minister of Trade Mari Elka Pangestu and Y Combinator.

Both Nusantara and PlayingViral were founded by chief executive officer Steven Wongsoredjo and chief product officer Michael Rendy. About a year after launching Nusantara in 2016, the team began to realize that “the online media business has the potential to go big, but it’s hard to scale because it lacks a human touch,” Wongsoredjo told TechCrunch. PlayingViral was created to fix that problem.

PlayingViral’s personalized, interactive content is intended to attract users who are jaded by banner ads. For example, a property developer used PlayingViral to create a survey that tells users what kind of house they can afford based on their income level and location. Other customers have embedded quizzes that reward players with discount codes. There are hundreds of dialects spoken in Indonesia and PlayingViral relies on its machine-learning algorithms to adapt content to different languages and decide where they should be placed in Nusantara’s online media network. It also analyzes what keywords, graphics and colors get the most engagement, helping brands refine their marketing strategies.

An example of PlayingViral’s interactive content is embedded below, while demos on PlayingViral’s site show its other uses, including text message stories and Mad Libs-style quizzes.

 

Wongsoredjo says PlayingViral became profitable just two months after it launched in January. Clients include Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Nokia. Its biggest competitor is SurveyMonkey, but PlayingViral differentiates by focusing on more informal and shorter surveys. Of course, other companies are also developing interactive embeddable content, but Wongsoredjo says PlayingViral and Nusantara plan to future-proof themselves by building more comprehensive data sets about what captures millennials’ attention than their competitors.

“If someone wants to copy us, they have to do a lot of experimenting,” says Wongsoredjo.

Facebook will (soon) yank third-party ad data in the name of privacy

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and rising public pressure against Facebook, the social media giant announced on Wednesday evening that it will restrict how much data advertisers can have access to.

Facebook will soon stop allowing advertisers access to data about individuals held by companies like Experian and Acxiom.

Prior to this change, Facebook allowed advertisers to target groups of people based on an amalgamation of both datasets.

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Pandora doubles down on ad tech with acquisition of AdsWizz for $145 million

Pandora announced this morning it’s acquiring digital audio ad technology firm AdsWizz for $145 million, as a combination of at least 50 percent cash, with the remaining paid in either cash or stock at Pandora’s discretion. The company, whose technology will be used to upgrade Pandora’s own ad tech capabilities, will continue as a subsidiary headed by CEO Alexis van de Wyer.

AdsWizz offers an end-to-end technology platform that powers music platforms, podcasts and broadcasting groups. Customers include Cox Media Group, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Entercom, Omnicom Media Group, Spotify, Deezer, PodcastOne, GroupM, and others.

Its software suite includes a variety of ad technology capabilities, including dynamic ad insertion, advanced programmatic platforms, ad campaign monitoring tools, and more.

Above: AdsWizz’ AudioMatic platform for programmatic buying 

It has also developed a number of new audio formats, like ShakeMe which has users shake their phones to trigger an action while listening to an ad; ads that can target users based on an activity like jogging or a situation like cold weather; ads that can be customized based personalized data; and others.

Pandora says it will leverage the acquisition to capitalize on the growth in digital audio advertising, which is up 42 percent year-over-year, according to the IAB.

We understand that Pandora was interested in where AdWizz’ roadmap aligned with Pandora’s specifically in the areas of audio monetization and ad-buying capabilities. It believes that by joining forces, it will be able to ship and launch new products faster.

Once integrated with Pandora, advertisers will be able to transact through AdsWizz’s global marketplace across Pandora and other audio publishers, the company says. Pandora says that it will continue to invest in AdsWizz technology that supports its core business and the wider industry.

“Since I joined Pandora six months ago, I have highlighted ad tech as a key area of investment for us. Today we took an important step to advance that priority and accelerate our product roadmap,“ said Roger Lynch, CEO of Pandora, in a statement. “With our scale in audio advertising and AdsWizz’s tech expertise, we will create the largest digital audio advertising ecosystem, better serving global publishers and advertisers — while improving Pandora’s own monetization capabilities.”

The deal comes at a time when Pandora continues to generate the majority of its revenues from advertising, despite its entry into the subscription business with its own rival to Apple Music and Spotify. In its Q4 2017 earnings, the company reported $97.7 million in subscription revenue that offset a 5 percent year-over-year decline in advertising revenues. Meanwhile, ad revenues clocked in at $297.7 million, down from $313.3 million in the same quarter the year before.

It also follows a rough year for Pandora which saw its original founder and CEO Tim Westergren exit, along with Chief Marketing Officer Nick Bartle and President Mike Herring, as part of a larger exec shakeup.

In addition to AdsWizz CEO van de Wyer, Pandora’s acquisition will add 140 people to the company from across all AdsWizz locations, including its San Mateo headquarters.

The acquisition does not impact the first quarter 2018 guidance or the full year 2018 commentary provided at Pandora’s last earnings, it notes. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018, and is subject to regulatory approval.

Get ready to start seeing more local ads on YouTube

YouTube’s video ad creation service aimed at helping small business reach YouTube viewers is now available more broadly across the U.S. The company announced this morning that YouTube Director onsite, as the service is called, is now live in over 170 U.S. cities, up from only 9 previously – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York, Tampa and Seattle.

This is significant expansion, in terms of reaching potential YouTube advertisers who would have otherwise not had the resources to write, film and edit a professional ad for YouTube.

The service is kind of a bargain for the small businesses, too. Hiring a pro to create a professionally produced video could cost $1,000 or more. But YouTube is basically doing it for free – well, free with a catch.

It’s available at no charge for any business that commits to spending at least $350 to advertise the video on YouTube. However, that’s in line with the low-end of buying airtime for a 30-second local TV ad, which ranges from $200 to $1,500+, depending on time slot.

YouTube Director onsite works by connecting area businesses with YouTube-approved filmmakers, who will schedule call with the advertiser to learn about the business and help them to write a script. The filmmaker then comes to the business to film the video, and returns an edited version the next week. YouTube’s ad experts help get the video upload to the site, and aid the business in crafting their YouTube ad campaign.

The company hasn’t shared any comprehensive metrics on how well these ads perform, but did note in a blog post a single case study where a custom guitar shop saw a 13x return on ad spend, and a 130 percent increase in revenue from the ad. The YouTube Director onsite website also features a number of other ads created via the service, to showcase the professional quality of what can be produced.

The company has claimed for years that YouTube ads are more effective than TV because they allow targeting – but that’s an argument that can be made for may sorts of online ads. In addition, YouTube reaches a younger demographic, so small businesses should keep in mind that they may need other ways to reach to those over the age of 35, for example.

The timing of this U.S. expansion is relevant because YouTube just last week announced new AdWords experiences that tie together Google searches with YouTube advertising and calls-to-action.

“Soon you’ll be able to reach people on YouTube who recently searched for your products or services on Google. For example, an airline could reach people on YouTube who recently searched Google.com for ‘flights to Hawaii.’ We call this custom intent audiences,” explained the recent Google’s announcement.

The company had previously allowed Google account user data to influence YouTube ads, starting in 2017. With custom intent audiences, advertisers can now create a keyword list for their video in AdWords. They can then combine this targeting feature with YouTube’s new direct response video ad format, TrueView, which offers a customizable call-to-action in a video ad.

The ads created by YouTube Director onsite will support this feature as well, allowing the businesses to capture leads or referrals, or something else that’s important to their specific businesses.

In other words, if you thought having the shoes you abandoned in a retailer’s shopping cart following you around the web was weird, wait until YouTube starts showing you ads for local businesses that match up with what you’ve just been googling. (By the way, Google does let you opt out of personalized ads if that’s how you roll.)

Pinterest is slowly rolling out its automated shopping ads to more marketers

Pinterest is looking to continue to increase its portfolio of ads, though sometimes that can take a little while to see the light of day — and that includes a new-ish tool called Shopping Ads that’s slowly getting opened to more marketers and advertisers.

Getting new ad formats is important for a smaller company looking to build out an advertising business, as it has to show potential advertisers it can offer an array of tools to play with as they experiment with that service. The company said today that it’s expanding those shopping ad tools to hundreds of additional advertisers after launching a pilot program last year as it looks to continue to ramp up that tool. Pinterest has to be able to convince marketers that it should be a mainstay advertising purchase alongside Facebook and Google, which are able to routinely show returns in value for their advertising spend.

Shopping ads automatically create promoted pins from an existing product feed for a retailer. That means it’s basically one less thing for retailers to worry about as they add more and more content to the service. Most of Pinterest’s content online is business content as users share products they might be interested in one day buying or already own. As Pinterest gets more and more data on this, they’ll have a better handle on what ads work best, and hope that businesses will hand off the process in full to something more automated.

Pinterest hopes to capture that routine user behavior of planning what they want to do next, whether that’s an outfit to wear that day or some kind of major event or purchase down the line. Getting a hold of those users in the moment they might be interested in a new product is key to the company’s pitch to advertisers. You can more or less consider this a continued test as the company starts to slowly give the tool to the advertisers it works with before it becomes generally available. If it works, it could probably end up down the line in the hands of all advertisers, which could help for small- to medium-sized businesses without a lot of experience build out their early marketing campaigns.

Cryptocurrencies fall as Google announces ad ban

Google is banning ads related to cryptocurrency from its vast advertising network, effective in June. The move follows a similar decision by Facebook in January.

The move comes as cryptocurrencies—and especially “initial coin offerings” of new digital tokens—have come under increasing scrutiny by regulators. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned that many cryptocurrency exchanges are operating outside the law. Authorities have alleged that some cryptocurrency offerings are outright frauds, while many others are just extraordinarily risky investments.

Cryptocurrency markets reacted negatively to the news. The price of bitcoin is down about 6 percent since the Wall Street Journal first reported the new policy early Wednesday morning. Other major currencies, including Ethereum and Litecoin, are also down modestly.

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