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Why This Time, Brands Pulling Spend from Facebook is Different

Professional headshot of Jeff Hirsch
By Jeff Hirsch, Chief Commercial Officer
July 28, 2020

The Open Web is the ideal market for advertisers who want both targeting and premium content at scale. Unlike walled gardens, which offer little transparency and by definition lower quality user generated content, brands get transparency and control while also being able to target the audience and content they want. 

PubMatic is a strong supporter of open source technology that supports a thriving online ecosystem. Recent market innovations like identity, especially with technology built on Prebid is a perfect example of the way the Open Web is maturing to meet advertiser demand.

Brands have pulled their media spend away from social media sites before, either when content or comments were concerning, or when privacy practices were not clear. However, in most cases, the platform would quickly course correct and brands would just as quickly return to their normal spending levels. YouTube is a good example of a site that has experienced numerous boycotts, but is always willing to have a dialogue with advertisers and has been quick to improve their brand safety measures when required.

In this case, Facebook’s current issue runs much deeper. Advertisers are concerned over a pervasive lack of oversight that is allowing hate speech to further incite violence and racism among other concerns. Facebook has not been a proactive supporter of civil rights, and has proven too lax in managing activity on their site. Making improvements will take continued pressure, and time, and advertisers will not be able to return to Facebook unless real change occurs. Otherwise, they’ll face strong public backlash.

This leaves the door open for brands to move their ad spend elsewhere, and that benefits the Open Web. In talks with the IAB, it is clear that brands and their agencies are planning for a this immediate and potentially long term shift in spending away from Facebook. After a decade or more of automatic spending on the social platform, brands are likely in for a pleasant surprise when they increase spend elsewhere.

Today’s Open Web has considerable advantages to social platforms and has emerged much stronger with new innovations:

  • Identity solutions like PubMatic’s Identity Hub have created robust targeting opportunities for brands that match or exceed targeting opportunities on social media. 
  • Improved auction mechanics due to increased use of header bidding, especially with Prebid open source, which increases advertiser transparency and control. 
  • Supply path optimization (SPO) and calls for business transparency have created a well-lit ecosystem with significantly more reporting and clarity than what the social media platforms provide, while also enabling bespoke technical solutions
  • Brand safety technology combined with premium editorial content that can be targeted contextually offer a huge increase in quality over UGC.
  • Even when buying through private marketplaces (PMPs), brands can expect quality that truly scales, and publishers have built up large and thriving ecosystems across channels including mobile and over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV).

It’s likely that even if Facebook does mend their ways, a lot of the spending that used to go to the platform stays on the Open Web, where brands get more of what they want.  The door that has been locked has now been opened .

We’d all be wise to keep this momentum going. To keep working on standards that support brand safety, identity and measurement, especially on emerging channels like OTT, where we can make a big impact quickly.

And, as PubMatic is proud to say again, developing open source solutions with Prebid and other technologies that promote transparency and control will be crucial to solidifying the strong case for sustained advertisers spend growth.