Google will now require that all advertisers provide official documentation confirming who they are and where they're based as part of a major expansion of its ad transparency requirements.
As explained by Google:
"In 2018, we announced a new identity verification policy for political advertisers. The policy requires all advertisers that want to run election ads on our platforms go through a verification program to confirm their identity. We display that identity in the ad unit so that users can learn more about the election ads they see on Google’s platforms. Since introducing this program, we’ve verified political advertisers in 30 countries. And now, to provide greater transparency and equip users with more information about who is advertising to them, we are extending identity verification to all advertisers on our platforms."
Google's verification program requires advertisers to provide "a government-issued ID and other key information" to confirm their stated details. Political advertisers also need to disclose who, specifically, is paying for each ad, which is probably less of a concern in the case of regular brand ads, though it does appear that all advertisers will need to go through the same verification process either way.
Advertisers will be alerted as to when they need to submit their ID documentation, and will be given 30 days to respond. Once your documentation is submitted, advertisers will then need to complete the verification program within the proceeding 30 days.
"Multiple failed attempts to complete the program will result in your ads not serving."
Once Google has verified an advertisers' identity, it will then use that info to generate a new disclosure panel on any ads they run, displaying the brand's name and country of origin.
It's a significant expansion of Google's ad transparency program, and it'll be a significant task for Google to get all of its millions of active advertisers approved and running with the new disclosure tags.
As such, Google will be verifying advertisers in phases, beginning in the US. The initial phase of the program will be focused on brands in these areas:
- Promotion of products, goods, and services - Examples: Retail, media and entertainment, travel, B2B, technology, etc.
- Promotion of informational, advisory, or educational content - Examples: Content promoting educational resources, research and statistics, free health or financial advice, charitable or social causes, etc.
- Promotion of content related to regulated industries - Examples: Gambling and games, financial products or services, healthcare products or services etc.
Businesses that advertise on Google, and operate in these verticals, may soon get a notification that they need to go through the verification process. If your business is selected, a form will be emailed to you - there's no online form submission for verification at this stage.
While the initial impetus for Google's political ad verification program was to weed out bad actors looking to manipulate voters, Google is now looking to detect and remove a broader range of ill-intentioned operators seeking to misrepresent themselves and dupe unwitting searchers. It's a good initiative, and it'll help improve the digital ad space overall - but it's also a big task, and you can imagine that there will some frustrations along the way, due to delays in approval and related disruptions.
Still, it's an important step, and one which will eventually become more commonplace across all digital platforms. It's impossible to weed out all the negative elements in digital ads, but by increasing transparency requirements, Google will also up its capacity for enforcement, which will, at the least, act as a deterrent for those looking to scam people with their campaigns.
You can read more about Google's coming verification requirements here.