- Facebook is shopping for a new ad agency, amidst its ongoing Russia fiasco.
- Facebook is calling upon agencies to devise an effort that is centered around it being an innovation company, highlighting its innovation pillars.
- Facebook says that the brief is in no way motivated by or an effort to address the issue of Russian actors meddling with the US elections using Facebook.
As it comes under fire for its role in enabling Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election on the one hand, Facebook is looking for help on the marketing front to tell a very different story on another.
Facebook has reached out to various advertising agencies for a strategy and advertising campaign assignment amid the crisis, Business Insider has learned. The company has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to a number of agencies in the past couple of weeks, multiple people have have confirmed to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity.
Facebook is calling upon agencies to devise an effort that is centered around it being an innovation company, beyond its social network roots. It is specifically asking ad agencies for strategy and ad creative that highlights its innovation pillars — the role it is playing in the fields of augmented reality and virtual, for instance, according to one person familiar with the matter.
The brief does not directly mention the Russia issue, but is perhaps motivated by or being driven to address the perception issues in the aftermath of the Russia fiasco, said the person. Another person confirmed that there was no mention of the Russia controversy, but that the timing of the brief could not be overlooked.
The advertising brief comes amid the company facing increasing backlash for how its platform was used to spread fake news and propaganda by Russian-backed actors around the 2016 US presidential election. It also comes as the company, along with Google and Twitter, appears before a Senate Committee to testify about state-sponsored meddling in US politics through social networks this week.
Facebook said that the advertising brief was in no way motivated by or an effort to address the issue of Russian actors meddling with the US elections using Facebook, and was a part of routine marketing efforts.
“If you think it’s news to people that a consumer technology brand is furthering its ongoing marketing efforts, so be it,” a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider. “The reality is this is part of a sustained effort to help people better understand the work we do.”
The reputations of social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google have taken a hit in the aftermath of the crisis, according to Kantar’s “Trust in News” study. More than half (54%) of the people polled say that they trust news coverage of politics and elections less on social media platforms than they did before.
The company has already taken out full-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post on October 4, in an effort to defend itself amid the controversy. In the ads, Facebook said that it would take immediate actions to “fight any attempt to interfere with elections or civic engagement on Facebook.”
It has since taken several steps to make advertising more transparent and enforce stronger ad policies. Just last week, for instance, Facebook announced that advertisers running federal election-related ads in the US would be required to verify their identity as well as run disclosures on each ad.
All the parties who discussed the brief stated that the process remains in its early stages and were unsure of the exact number of ad agencies involved in the pitch.