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Facebook awarded JICWEBS Brand Safety Certification

17 Sep 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Facebook awarded JICWEBS Brand Safety Certification

Facebook's advertising practices have today been given a seal of approval by the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS), as Facebook, Facebook Audience Network and Instagram have been awarded the DTSG Brand Safety Certification.

The certification is the UK standard for brand safety, which hopes to reduce the risk of online ads being served against inappropriate or harmful content. Facebook first signed up to the audit process in July 2018, one year after the IPA, a JICWEBS founding member and partner, called upon the advertising giant and its rival YouTube to certify their advertising practices.

The certification is also a necessary requirement to achieve the IAB Gold Standard and usually the audit must be completed within six months - however, Facebook was granted an extension in January due to the size and complexity of the audits. According to JICWEBS, Facebook's feed-based media platform and its use of AI posed new verification challenges.

Although it does not deal with content or content guidelines directly, as part of JICWEBS' audit the certification supports the use of advanced content verification systems.

"The certificates share information on the policies and procedures that Facebook has in place to deal with brand safety against user generated content," said Jules Kendrick, CEO at JICWEBS.

"For the first time, advertisers are now able to use this information when campaign planning."

Meanwhile, Steve Hatch, Facebook's VP of Northern Europe, added: "It is vital that advertisers can trust where their ads are appearing, and we are fully behind the industry's desire to raise standards in digital advertising.

"We support JICWEBS’ robust standards, rigorous verification process and the industry transparency it provides, and are delighted to have achieved DTSG Brand Safety Certification.”

Advertisers, via their trade bodies, have demanded greater trust and transparency in the digital ad ecosystem and JICWEBS’ certification shows advertisers who is making a genuine commitment to protect their investment.

"We hope all parts of the supply chain will share the same level of detail through our certification scheme," Kendrick added.

Facebook and Instagram's certifications closely follow Amazon's, which was awarded in July. Meanwhile, YouTube received its certification in March last year.

However, since beginning the audit process, Facebook and Instagram have been publicly lambasted for their roles in a number of brand safety blunders, many of which derived from the perils of allowing users to upload their own content, or a lack of human oversight in serving recommended content.

Commenting on today's news, Angus McLean, director digital at Ebiquity, told Mediatel that Facebook has, however, made an important step to improve its brand safety credentials but it was not a perfect solution for what he described as a "complex and nuanced" issue.

"There’s no question that brand safety remains a major headache for CMOs," he said. "Recent Ebiquity research revealed 65% of the UK’s top 100 advertisers had appeared in potentially non-brand safe environments.

"But as ever, the devil is in the detail: what is and isn’t a brand safe environment is inherently subjective in the vast majority of the cases."

For example, the Facebook Audience Network contains 60,000 apps and sites that includes media titles such as Breitbart, which many brands may not consider brand safe.

"While the JICWEBS certification applying overarching and familiar content rules to Facebook and Instagram is no doubt welcomed, it won’t change the fact that brands still need to carefully manage their brand safety given the complex nature of large digital platforms," McLean said.

JICWEBS' cross-industry partners include ISBA, the IAB, the AOP and the IPA.

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