PROJECT SUMMARY

Woman looking at device in dark room

The Australian Ad Observatory Project

Focus Area(s): News & Media
Research Program: Data
Status: Active

The Ad Observatory develops and applies tools for observing how so-called ‘dark ads’ are targeted on Facebook. The goal is to respond to changes in the advertising environment by providing models for accountability and transparency of advertising targeted to individuals on social media. The current tool is limited to the use of Facebook on desktop and laptop computers. The Observatory team, however, has worked with different approaches on other platforms and is developing a mobile app that will collect ads from users.

To date we have over 1900 volunteers participating in the Facebook component of the project by installing the Observatory’s browser extension which allows them to share with us the sponsored content that appears in their news feeds. This participation has yielded more than 700,000 ad observations of more than 300,000 unique ads. These ads have, in turn, served as the basis for research projects on greenwashing and on the advertising of harmful products and services including: alcohol, gambling, ultra-processed foods, and financial services.

Outputs so far include six documents including working papers, technical reports, and academic publications. The project has also received substantial media attention, resulting in stories by partner organisation ABC about illegal gambling ads and scam ads. It has also resulted in collaboration with organisations including CHOICE, the Consumer Policy Research Centre, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, and VicHealth. Project findings and approaches have been presented at international conferences and we continue to develop partnerships both nationally and internationally.

Visit the public facing Australian Ad Observatory page for further information, and to join the project.

PUBLICATIONS

Report cover: The Australian Ad Observatory Technical and Data Report

ADM+S Working Paper Series. The Australian Ad Observatory Technical and Data Report.

January 2024

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Report Cover: Seeing Green

Seeing Green. Prevalence of environmental claims on social media.

November 2023

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Cover: Addition Research & Theory

Addressing the accountability gap: gambling advertising and social media platform responsibilities

June 2023

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Alcohol advertising on social media platforms – A 1-year snapshot. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education: Canberra.

March 2023

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Report: Advertisements on digital platforms: How transparent and observable are they?

Advertisements on digital platforms: How transparent and observable are they?

March 2022

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ADM+S Working Paper Series: Australian Ad Observatory

The Australian Ad Observatory: Background Paper

July 2022

Read on APO

Journal Article: Critical simulation as hybrid digital method for exploring the data operations and vernacular cultures of visual social media platforms

Critical simulation as hybrid digital method for exploring the data operations and vernacular cultures of visual social media platforms.

SocArXiv, 2021

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Journal Article: Sheding Light on Dark Ads

Shedding Light on Dark Ads

Continuum, November 2023

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Book Chapter: Ad Accountability Online

Ad Accountability Online: A methodological approach

In Everyday Automation, pp. 213-225. Routledge, 2022

Read Book Chapter

Regulating Platforms’ Algorithmic Brand Culture: The Instructive Case of Alcohol Marketers on Social Media

Regulating Platforms’ Algorithmic Brand Culture: The Instructive Case of Alcohol Marketers on Social Media

In Digital Platform Regulation, 2022

Read the Article

GitHub logo

The Australian Ad Observatory Data Donation Plugin

Github, September 2021

Code and Documentation on Github

RESEARCHERS

Mark Andrejevic

Prof Mark Andrejevic

Lead Investigator,
Monash University

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Daniel Angus

Prof Daniel Angus

Chief Investigator,
QUT

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ADM+S Associate Director Jean Burgess

Prof Jean Burgess

Chief Investigator,
QUT

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ADM+S Investigator Christine Parker

Prof Christine Parker

Chief Investigator,
University of Melbourne

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Kim Weatherall

Prof Kim Weatherall

Chief Investigator,
University of Sydney

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ADM+S Chief Investigator Christopher Leckie

Prof Chris Leckie

Chief Investigator,
University of Melbourne

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Nicholas Carah

Assoc Prof Nicholas Carah

Associate Investigator,
University of Queensland

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Kelly Lewis

Dr Kelly Lewis

Research Fellow,
Monash University

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Christopher O'Neill

Dr Christopher O’Neil

Research Fellow,
Monash University

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Lauren Hayden

Lauren Hayden

PhD Student,
University of Queensland

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ADM+S professional staff Abdul Obeid

Dr Abdul Obeid

Data Engineer,
QUT

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César Albarrán-Torres

Dr César Albarrán-Torres

Affiliate,
Swinburne University

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Julian Bagnara

Julian Bagnara

Affiliate,
University of Melbourne

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Bronwyn Carlson

Prof Bronwyn Carlson

Affiliate,
Macquarie University

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Loup Cellard

Dr Loup Cellard

Affiliate,
Datactivist Coop

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Robbie Fordyce

Dr Robbie Fordyce

Affiliate,
Monash University

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Tanita Northcott

Tanita Northcott

Affiliate,
University of Melbourne

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ADM+S Chief Investigator Megan Richardson

Prof Megan Richardson

Affiliate,
University of Melbourne

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Verity Trott

Dr Verity Trott

Affiliate,
Monash University

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PARTNERS AND COLLABORATING ORGANISATIONS

ABC logo

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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AlgorithmWatch logo

Algorithm Watch

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CHOICE

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Consumer Policy Research Centre Logo

Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC)

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FARE Logo

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE)

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RMIT ABC Fact Check Logo

RMIT ABC Fact Check

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New York university

New York University

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