Over the last few years, transparency has become an increasingly central issue in the world of online advertising. Google has addressed this issue head-on, noting in a recent blog post that they want their users to have some choice and control over the ads they see, and also to be able to quickly and easily determine who’s paid to place those ads. There are a number of examples of Google’s emphasis on ad transparency, such as the “Why This Ad?” feature you might see from time to time. By clicking on this text, users can receive information about why Google chose to show them that particular advertisement at that particular moment.
Now, Google is going a step further in their quest for ad transparency, specifically through the fallout of a new “ads verification” program. This program will have ramifications for search engine users and advertisers alike.
What’s the Ad Verification Program All About?
The program technically started back in 2018, when Google began cracking down on political advertisers. Initially, the ad verification program simply required these advertisers to validate their identity before running ads, making it clear to search engine users exactly who was paying for each political advertisement that was placed.
Now, Google is rolling out a much broader version of the program, which will apply not just to political campaigns but to businesses, as well. Google has indicated that the new program will be implemented in phases, with certain industries prioritized; those industries will receive further information about the new ad requirements.
Generally speaking, we know that the new requirements will include the following:
- Methods of personal identification
- Proof of operating geography
- Business incorporation documents
- Additional items to verify identity, asked for on a case-by-case basis
This program is set to launch in the U.S., initially, before potentially being expanded worldwide. It will impact search, display, and YouTube ads.
When businesses receive notification that they must submit these identity verification documents, Google will give them a 30-day window in which to comply. Failure to do so may result in their ads immediately being pulled from Google. The search engine has pledged to do their part in expediting the verification process, evaluating and approving of submitted documents within three to five days.
It’s worth noting that ad disclosures will display the trademarked/business name of the advertiser, not necessarily the company that’s managing the ads. Thus, an ad agency would need to disclose the identity of their client, but not necessarily disclose their own identity.
The Purpose of the Program
For ad industry insiders, this new program won’t come as much of a surprise; consumers and government regulators have been pressing for greater advertising transparency for a long time now, and an ad verification program was likely inevitable.
To hear Google tell it, this program is intended to benefit both the end user as well as the advertising industry as a whole. “This change will make it easier for people to understand who the advertiser is behind the ads they see from Google and help them make more informed decisions when using our advertising controls,” the company states. They continue to note that an ad verification program “will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves.”
What Users and Advertisers Can Expect
But what does all of this mean on a more practical level? There are a few ways in which the new ads verification program will have an impact.
Most fundamentally, it will slightly augment the Google search experience. Once the program is rolled out, search engine users will see visible disclosures on affected ads; below the “Why This Ad?” button, users will be able to see a disclosure of who paid for the ad and where they are located. There will also be an option for users to stop being served ads from that particular entity. On YouTube, this information will be available by clicking on either the “i” icon or the three-dots icon that appears on every ad.
Advertisers, meanwhile, will want to pay close attention to this rollout. Google is set to notify affected industries as early as this summer, and if your industry is one of the ones that’s impacted, you’ll need to be fairly prompt in submitting the requested information, disclosing your business name and geographic locale.
This is an issue that the enCOMPASS team will monitor closely. As more information is available, we’ll be reaching out directly to our clients who are affected and walk them through the steps they need to take to ensure the proper disclosures. We are also happy to answer any questions you have right now. Reach out any time you’d like to talk.
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