Navigating Facebook Ad Screeners

Grab your compass and sextant because we are going to navigate through Facebook Ad Screeners! The screening process was instituted in an attempt to avoid political misinformation being promoted on Facebook from unknown third parties. Although we applaud Facebook’s attempt to minimize third parties from meddling in our political process, their screening system may be a bit too restrictive. We encountered it firsthand when we attempted to promote Veteran’s Wooden Boat Workshop’s Website Launch. Below is the screenshot of our original ad:

A screen capture of a Facebook post.

Facebook denied the ad because “The text and/or imagery you’re using is related to politics or an issue of national importance, based on the definition we’re using for enforcement. However, your Page is not authorized to run these types of ads. You must authorize your Page to run ads related to politics or an issue of national importance. To begin the authorization process, please visit your Page’s Settings. You can find more information here. Once you’re authorized to run these ads, choose the option to run this ad with the disclaimer you create in the Authorizations process.”

This left us confused as we didn’t see our ad as political or an issue of national importance. We appealed their decision and Facebook still would not approve the ad. Needing clarification, we reviewed what Facebook considered issues of national importance. As it turned out, quite a few:

  • abortion
  • budget
  • civil rights
  • crime
  • economy
  • education
  • energy
  • environment
  • foreign policy
  • government reform
  • guns
  • health
  • immigration
  • infrastructure
  • military
  • poverty
  • social security
  • taxes
  • terrorism
  • values

That’s a pretty long and inclusive list. The only thing missing is the kitchen sink! It’s likely you work or volunteer at a organization that easily falls within this list, potentially making future promotions difficult. So, from that list, we could only assume because the word Veterans was in the ad, Facebook saw it as a military promotion. We think that was a bit of stretch. We don’t think a non-profit helping veterans reintegrate into our society through building kayaks would be a national issue, but we weren’t the only ones flagged for using the word Veterans. A Veterans charity bike ride was denied its ad for the same reason.

So, as an experiment, we decided to edit the ad to see if it could get past the screeners. We changed Veterans Wooden Boat Workshop to “non-profit” and replaced the word “veterans” with “service-men and women”. Even though the graphic in the ad still contained the word Veterans, that ad was approved! So, wording is key to working through Facebook’s overly restrictive filters, but graphics may not be part of the evaluation process (for now). We let the ad run overnight and then turned it off because it didn’t truly convey the original message we wanted.

Another option would be to register your page with Facebook to allow you to create ads that are political or contain national issues. However, you would need to give Facebook your phone number to allow for double authentication, your address so they can mail you an authorization code, and a copy of your drivers license or passport to prove your citizenship. We opted to skip the authorization.

Now, to be clear, posting on Facebook and promoting an ad on Facebook are two separate things. We posted the original content without any issues. It’s when we decided to promote the post as an ad that Facebook’s filters evaluated the content. As of now, you are free to post about politics and national issues, but once you want to make such posts into ads you will need to go through Facebook Ad Screeners. And to get through filters without registering your page, you may need to use a thesaurus to navigate around their list.

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