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Brands discovering dangers of social media advertising

June 5, 2013

Social media sites are free to users and tend to support the idea of Internet freedom, but as Facebook and others try to make money with advertising they’re also finding that brands need safe places for the ads to appear, away from controversial content created by users.

As The New York Times reports, after Facebook didn’t initially remove pages that glorified violence against women, feminist activists waged a digital-media campaign against marketers whose ads ran alongside those pages. Nissan and several smaller advertisers temporarily removed their ads, and Facebook promised to improve its systems for identifying and removing such content.

Activists also cited Dove for running ads on misogynistic Facebook pages. Stacie Bright, global director, marketing communications, Unilver, says “Facebook advertising targets people’s interests … and we do not select the pages our adverts appear on.”

At Facebook, “If a page is flagged as controversial, there are not ads on those sites.” However, the social network does not identify content as controversial until it is reported, said Sarah Feinberg, the company’s director of policy communications.

In contrast to the predictability of traditional advertising, online ads use high-speed algorithms to target broad demographics — men ages 30 to 40, for example. “You don’t have any control, quite honestly,” says Audrey Siegel, president of the agency TargetCast TCM. “You’re never going to know your ad was here or there. It will change every time a user refreshes their browser.”  — Greg Beaubien


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