FreeTV Australia cries foul over ‘political’ Facebook ads

Facebook has been forced to change its Here Together TV ads to meet political marketing rules as FreeTV Australia expressed its frustration at how political advertising rules are being applied to broadcasters.

The campaign, which launched at the end of last month, was part of Facebook’s global push to restore its battered reputation following the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

Facebook submitted the ad to FreeTV’s Commercials Advice service which advises advertisers, agencies and producers on classification and compliance matters shortly before the TVC stage of the campaign last week.

The advice from FreeTV was that aspects of the TV commercial could be considered political advertising and would be required to end with the tag stating who the ad was written and authorised by.

Rather than adding the tag, Facebook decided to change the wording around ‘Fake News’ to avoid the political label.

“We want to run this on TV,” said Will Easton,  Facebook’s ANZ managing director, in a statement. 

“We consistently listen to our community’s feedback and they have told us that they want to understand what we are doing about recent concerns around social media. This campaign is designed to respond to that feedback and show the actions we are taking. The advertising market is highly competitive and we recognise the value of multiple channels to reach consumers.”

Bridget Fair, CEO of FreeTV Australia, expressed her frustration at Facebook already running the ads in cinemas, print and out of home: “It’s another example of where TV is at a disadvantage to other platforms,” she told Mumbrella.

FreeTV urged greater regulation of Facebook and other online services in its submission to the ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry but Fair said the TVC ruling was not related to the industry organisation’s lobbying against social media network.

“We have no-ill will to Facebook,” Fair told Mumbrella. “We’re more than prepared to take their money. For us it’s frustrating and we’d like to talk to the government about this.”

Mumbrella understands advertisers have been concerned for some time about the Australian Media and Communication Authority’s broad definition of political advertising with some being warned during the same-sex marriage vote that the use of rainbow flags or imagery in TVC would require a disclaimer.

Facebook is not the only advertiser to be inadvertently caught by industry regulators recently with Aboriginal Victoria’s Deadly Questions campaign falling foul of the Outdoor Media Association’s racial vilification guidelines last month.


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