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The Story of a Rejected Facebook Ad

May 6th, 2015 Posted by

Rejected Facebook Ad

I’m what you would consider a very careful advertiser. I know Facebook’s advertising guidelines inside and out. I’ve written several blog posts (like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one and this one) on the topic, and I use a grid to make sure I fall within the 20% rule.

As a result, if I get an ad rejected, it gets my attention!

During the past week, I went through a pretty poor experience over an ad rejection that underscores Facebook’s shortcomings in this area. I wanted to share the story with you as I know I’m not the only one who has had such an experience.

The Ad In Question

I recently decided to create several campaigns promoting popular blog posts to a broader audience and higher budget, with the intention of increasing my website traffic. I always promote my most recent blog posts, but these campaigns would target lookalikes and interests at a higher budget.

Each campaign promoted an existing organic Facebook post. And each campaign was promoting a post that was previously approved with no issues.

Here is one of the ads that I planned to run…

Facebook Ad Targeting Rejected

Keep in mind that I already promoted this exact post from March 31 through April 7. It did quite well, as I spent $139.06 to drive 1,063 website clicks.

The Rejection

Needless to say, I was surprised to receive a notification that the ad had been rejected. Following is the language explaining my violation:

Your ad wasn’t approved because it violates Facebook’s Ad Guidelines by using profanity or addressing the age, gender, name, physical condition or sexual orientation of people on Facebook. If you’ve reviewed the Facebook Advertising Guidelines and think your ad should have been approved, please get in touch.

If I truly violated a rule, I would simply make the necessary changes and move on. But I was not convinced that I did anything wrong.

Let’s step through the possible violations…

Profanity: Nope. No profanity here.

Addressing Age: Nope. I used the number 13. Maybe that tripped the filters?

Addressing Gender: Didn’t happen.

Addressing Name: Of course not.

Addressing Physical Condition: Nope.

Addressing Sexual Orientation: Nope.

Considering I was merely promoting an organic post, addressing any of these things wouldn’t have made any sense at all (even if I wanted to).

So then I moved from the ad to the content it was promoting. The ad promoted this blog post:

Priority List: 13 Audiences to Target Using Facebook Ads

That blog post was an exhaustive list of the groups of people you should target with Facebook ads to make your advertising as relevant to your audience as possible. By no means would I ever recommend the things that would be a targeting violation.

I was recommending that you target people most closely connected to you (as I always do). And really, this post could have easily been the type of content that would appear on the Facebook for Business blog. It teaches usage of Facebook’s targeting tools the way they would want them used.

The Frustrating Correspondence

Okay, so this ad was rejected. But it’s pretty clear it shouldn’t have been. So I’m going to click that handy little “Get in Touch” link to let Facebook know that they screwed up…

Facebook Ad Rejected Get in Touch

Here’s what I said in my defense:

I have three disapproved ads under campaign: Targeting Priority List #2 – Clicks to Website.

The reason you reported:

“Your ad wasn’t approved because it violates Facebook’s Ad Guidelines by using profanity or addressing the age, gender, name, physical condition or sexual orientation of people on Facebook. If you’ve reviewed the Facebook Advertising Guidelines and think your ad should have been approved, please get in touch.”

There is absolutely nothing about these ads that have bad language or violate rules in the ways mentioned.

First of all, this was a horrible argument by me. Bad form. Not only was it actually three ad sets promoting the same ad, but I didn’t do a very good job of defending myself and explaining how I hadn’t violated that rule.

So here is the response from Facebook:

Hi Jon,

Thanks for writing in. I’m here to help.

We investigated your report and it looks like there are no disapproved ads on your account. If you’re still having trouble, please reply to this email with more information that will help us identify your ad. Make sure you’re writing in from the email address that is on the ad account. Be sure to include:

-Account ID
-Ad ID
-URL of the disapproved ad

You can find this information in your Ads Manager. If you’ve deleted your ad, you can make a new one and submit it for review.

Thanks,

Ashley
Facebook Ads Team
Facebook

Well, that’s not a good start. They don’t even realize they rejected my ad. So maybe the ad actually was rejected in error.

So I send all of the details that they need. Then I get this:

Hi Jon,

Thanks for writing in. I’m here to help.

Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our language policies. We’ve found that people dislike ads that directly address them or their personal characteristics (ex: age, gender, race).

Ads should not single out individuals or degrade people. We don’t accept language like “Are you struggling to find the right targeting combination? I put together a priority list of the 13 ways I recommend you target — in order — for optimal results”

Instead, text must present realistic and accurate information in a neutral or positive way and should not have any direct attribution to people.

Please make the necessary edits and recreate your posts. If it’s an ad created from the create flow, you can edit it in your ads manager:

www.facebook.com/ads/manage

Learn more about Facebook’s language policy here:

https://www.facebook.com/help/249045061790375/?ref=cr

We’re always looking to improve our support, so please let us know what you think of our service: https://www.facebook.com/survey/?oid=388382157932113

Let me know if you need any more help.

Thanks,

Ashley
Facebook Ads Team
Facebook

Ugh. So, for whatever reason they have an issue with the line “Are you struggling to find the right targeting combination? I put together a priority list of the 13 ways I recommend you target — in order — for optimal results.”

I have no clue how this violates the rule they cite as a problem.

So I respond, this time in painful detail:

Hi, Ashley. Thanks for working with me and providing some explanation.

Normally, I would just make the changes you suggest. However, I strongly believe that my ad does not violate the terms you describe. That rule was not written in the spirit of preventing ads like mine.

As you can see from my ad, I am a Facebook advocate. Facebook ads have been a huge part of my business, so understanding what is and isn’t allowed is imperative. I very rarely have any issues with ads getting rejected — even for 20% text on images — because I understand your rules thoroughly and I also have nothing but pure intentions (which is most important). So when it happens, it gets my attention.

Understand that my business is to educate people on how to advertise on Facebook. It is not to tell them tricks and ways to game the system. I’m merely helping show users how to use tools the way you want advertisers to use them. Nothing else.

First, let’s take a look at your policy.

“We’ve found that people dislike ads that directly address them or their personal characteristics (ex: age, gender, race). Ads should not single out individuals or degrade people.”

That’s just your summary, but I’ve read the full content of the rule before (https://www.facebook.com/help/249045061790375/?ref=cr). I’ve even written a blog post helping people understand the rule.

I completely understand why the rule is necessary. Ads can get creepy in a hurry if you imply that you know something private about someone.

Now let’s look at the copy that triggered the rejection.

“Are you struggling to find the right targeting combination? I put together a priority list of the 13 ways I recommend you target — in order — for optimal results.”

I don’t understand how you see these two things as being connected. At no point do I ever recommend people target in ways that would address personal characteristics. EVER.

The blog post that this ad links to could have easily appeared within the Facebook for Business blog rather than on my website.

http://www.jonloomer.com/2015/03/30/facebook-targeting-ads/

I’m merely recommending that advertisers target people who know them — who actually want to see their ads. These are things that the Facebook marketing group would want as well. There is absolutely nothing creepy or underhanded about this approach.

I firmly believe that there is nothing I have done here that is in violation of your terms. But if I have, it’s important that I understand it fully since I am actively educating people on how to use Facebook ads and I need to understand these things inside and out. If something confuses me, it’s a sign that it’s going to confuse a whole lot more people.

Thanks for reopening.

Jon

You can probably tell that I’m getting frustrated. But I’m doing my best to keep my cool.

One thing I’ve found out as a baseball coach is that you can’t freak out at the umpire and expect a positive result, even if you’re right. So I’m applying that same type of approach here.

So I thought I made a bang-up case. I felt like Perry Mason. There’s no way Ashley can say I violated that rule.

Then I get this:

Hi Jon,

Thanks for writing back, but our say on this matter remains unchanged.

However i appreciate your feedback, and have passed it to our internal team, we will update you if i see progress on this.

We regret the inconvenience faced by you.

We encourage you to create policy compliant ads and you can be assured of their approval. Thanks once again.

Warm Regards,
Ashley
The Facebook Ads Team

She didn’t address any of my points. Beyond frustrating.

I was tempted to respond with a “Don’t you know who I am??!!” message, but that just felt wrong. At this point, it was clear I was going to get nowhere with Ashley. And really, I’m pretty sure that Ashley isn’t a real person.

Redemption

I then did the only other thing I could do: I decided to go around the process and reach out to one of my contacts within Facebook’s marketing division.

Everything was cleared up:

Hi, Jon. After some follow-up, we’ve found that your ad was mistakenly disapproved. You were right in your interpretation of our ad policy and I’m really sorry about the mix-up. Your ad has been re-approved for use and it should appear as such in your Ads Manager or Power Editor console. You probably need to re-activate it if you intend to keep it running.

While there was a happy ending here, it doesn’t make it less frustrating. If I didn’t have this contact, I would have been forced to change my ad. And that should not have been necessary.

The Explanation

Following is the explanation I received regarding Facebook’s ad approval shortcomings:

As you know, our ad review systems combine automated triggers and people-based reviews. They’re not yet 100% perfect, but that’s our goal. I’ve shared your experience with our Ads Review team so that we can improve the process going forward. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any other questions relating to this ad.

It’s nice to get an honest response like this. It’s not clear if Ashley was a real person, but there were certainly some automated triggers at the root of this. It’s entirely possible that I never received a human review until I pushed this up the line.

But hopefully my experience was shared with the Ads Review team and this will help lead to a solution.

How You Can Handle False Ad Rejection

If your ad was legitimately rejected for violating a rule, I can’t help you. But if you have a situation like mine, fight it.

Repeatedly reopen the case. And as my friend Andrew Foxwell recommends, say that you will continue to reopen the case until a human reviews it and addresses your individual arguments.

This is also why having an ad rep or some sort of contact within Facebook helps. It doesn’t mean they can help you get ads approved that shouldn’t be. But this is otherwise a dead end for those with no contacts.

Finally, I have to think that the new Customer Service Chat will come in very handy here. Real people will need to address your concerns in real time. I don’t have this yet, but if you do I strongly recommend you use it to help quickly clear up ad rejection issues.

Your Turn

What has your experience been with ad rejection, and what tips do you have to get them cleared up?

Let me know in the comments below!

Category: PHC Blog Uncategorized

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