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The Do’s and Don’ts of Facebook’s Branded Content Policy for News Orgs

UPDATE: Facebook says the Branded Content grace period will end 9/1/16 at which point all posts in violation will be REMOVED, not just warned and flagged.

It may not be the simplest policy for newsrooms to navigate, but one thing is certain – if you can figure out Facebook’s new Branded Content Guidelines, you are well on your way to a pretty interesting new opportunity to monetize your social reach.

The basics are these: Facebook is now OK with you charging money to your advertiser for including them in one of your posts to your newsroom’s own Facebook Page. The biggest limitations are that these Branded Content Posts are only allowed on Verified Pages and must be made using the Branded Content “handshake”Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 8.35.56 AMfeature which can be found in Facebook native or inside the Social News Desk publishing interface. Beyond that, it’s really just about following a series of rules surrounding HOW THE CONTENT LOOKS. And most of those are aimed at keeping your Facebook content from becoming cluttered with advertising.

Still Confused by Facebook’s Branded Content Policy?

All that said…lots of news orgs are confused by the new policy. If you’re one of them, we’re here to help!

First, there are several resources created by Facebook to help you figure it all out:

And we’ve put together this collection of Do’s and Don’ts related to REAL WORLD examples we’ve seen as our newsroom clients have tried to make sense of it all.

Do’s and Don’ts of Branded Content on Facebook

1. Promotions

Pasted image at 2016_07_21 12_45 PMYou can post promotions such as sweepstakes, giveaways or contents that feature a third party product, brand or sponsor. Here’s an example of that from The Augusta Chronicle.

2. Product placements

Product placements are among Facebook’s most preferred styles of Branded Content because of the (theoretically) seamless integration with the content. These types of sponsorships “feel” less like an ad.

Examples might include video of a noon show cooking segment that uses your sponsor’s products or features your sponsor’s restaurant. And maybe the sponsor’s logo is even built into the set. It’s also OK to show the sponsor’s products on the work surface during the segment.

3. Images or video that include the sponsor’s logos

KRDO_sampleNow this is probably the trickiest of all. Again, Facebook wants to avoid a scenario where everything you post looks like an ad.

So the rules around including sponsor logos are pretty strict. One of the quickest ways to get flagged by Facebook is to design your sponsor’s logo to look like a “banner ad.” That means your ad should not look like a banner ad – meaning it should not be a rectangular, opaque overlay.
This example from KRDO is a good illustration. Here we see the Campbell’s Flowers ‘banner’ is laid on top of the original photo, which is in this case the photo of flowers with the station logo on it. The preferred approach would be to incorporate the sponsor’s logo with a transparent background so it feels less like a “bar” on top of the image. Or, better yet – a photo of the actual flower shop! That would be a far more organic image and much less likely to be flagged.branded content 1


Same here for a San Francisco-based radio station that did properly tag the Branded Content sponsor, AT&T…but got flagged due to the way the link’s image thumbnail looks. It does appear to resemble a banner ad simply due to the fact that the sponsor’s logo and details are in a white rectangular-shaped box across the bottom of the image.

4. Pre-roll, Mid-roll and Post-roll Ads

No, no and no. You can’t post videos that include video ads that play before, during or after your video (pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll ads). And Facebook also says, “You can’t post videos that contain title cards that feature a third-party brand, product or sponsor.” So an end slate is okay, but don’t put the sponsor slate in the first three seconds of the video.

5. Videos with Ads

This would be a good time to conceded that it all seems a bit subjective. That said, there are a few very simple, concrete rules as well. One of those is that you CAN post videos which include a sponsor’s logo over top the video but you CANNOT have that logo appear in the first three seconds of the video, and you CANNOT have it appear for longer than five seconds anywhere throughout the video.

KMOVTake a look at this example from KMOV-TV. The logo surfaces at around the 30 second mark and stays there for the rest of the video, which is way longer than five seconds. Therefore, it was flagged by Facebook as a violation of the policy.

What’s interesting is that the “Clean Air Partnership” logo isn’t actually an overlay. It’s part of the 7-Day graphic. But is indistinguishable from an overlay. The easiest way to get around this would have been to have the weather anchor sit in front of a monitor with the 7-Day graphic in the monitor. Therefore the logo would have been part of the set rather than a logo overlay.

6. Disclosed content

TEXT-OF-Pasted-image-at-2016_07_21-12_44-PMYou can post content that clearly indicates it was created in collaboration with a third-party product, brand or sponsor. For example, you can include phrases like “sponsored by [sponsor name]” or “brought to you by [sponsor name]” in your post to indicate that you are partnering with a sponsor. But make sure you ALSO tag that sponsor using the Branded Content tool. This is indicated by the “with” language at the top of the post.

7. Cover photos or profile photos that feature third-party products, brands or sponsors are not allowed

Facebook says, “You can’t add a cover photo or profile photo to your Page that features another brand, product or sponsor.” This has actually been against Facebook’s rules for years so we don’t see a lot of this anymore. But if you’re thinking about selling your sponsor a cover image take-over on your Facebook page, don’t do it.

Questions? Concerns? Have you received a policy violation notice recently that has you baffled? Feel free to reach out to us at

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