Fake news: You can’t check out what’s trending, ride the train, or go out to dinner without hearing about it. Social media giant Facebook has been the face of the crisis, as many point the finger at the company for failing to verify the veracity of election-related news spread on its site.
The Guardian reported a difficult year for Facebook, with this scandal representing the biggest challenge for the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But Facebook isn’t the only company or platform that should be concerned about the spread of fake news or its implications. Advertisers need to fully understand what happened and why to avoid getting caught in the scandal.
So How Did It Happen?
The same Guardian piece described the reality of the fake news phenomenon—how it quickly became a cottage industry as many, including a group of Macedonian teenagers, built websites full of false stories about the election and the presidential candidates. Why? Because as the stories went viral, they raked in advertising money. In a guest column for AdExchanger, Riley Strategic CEO Emily Riley goes a step further by attributing this problem to audience targeting. With advertisers focusing on audiences rather than content, she argues, viewability has become more important than quality.
When Technology Doesn’t Cooperate
This isn’t the first time advertisers have invested in emerging technology only to be disappointed in the results. Just as most advertisers weren’t looking for a way to display ads next to fictitious news stories, many were disappointed to find that Facebook was misreporting advertising metrics earlier this year. Snapchat has had its own hurdles, as AdAge reported, and many advertisers watched Vine fail after they’d already invested time in creating a brand presence on the platform.
What Can Advertisers Do?
As some technologies fail and others provide unexpected challenges, advertisers can remember to follow a few key tips to soften the blow:
- First, understand what went wrong and how to be part of the solution. For fake news, Riley advocates whitelists to avoid disreputable websites, with the understanding that high-quality media is worth more, even if viewed at lower volumes.
- Second, think about alternatives. Audience targeting itself isn’t bad, and it isn’t only available through digital display. There are other means for reaching specific groups, including programmatic TV. Videa works with Nielsen and comScore to provide data to advertisers, and in many ways television affords advertisers greater visibility into their reach—and assurance about the inventory they’re purchasing—than does digital display advertising.
- Finally, plan for bumps along the way. A flexible approach to spending will allow advertisers to buy into new possibilities while maintaining opportunities to learn from their experiences.
Whether a new technology goes awry or an unexpected challenge crops up, advertisers can get their marketing plans back on track by keeping these tips in mind.