Russian spammers bought $150k in FB Ads & now we can’t promote live music
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Facebook: I’m somewhat stuck with it for now, given that every client, workshop, or course that I work on uses it in some form or another. You’re probably in a similar spot because it is one of the best places to advertise most things. So the best thing that we can do is be informed and play their game to the best of our ability.
- It made the world more connected
- Then it exposed old DMs, driving people away from its network and from each other
- It created Pages, so that brands could build communities of people who want to see our content
- Then it separated Pages from their communities by introducing the algorithm
- It built the world’s most fair and targeted advertising platform, where brands with the best content get the best results
- Then it imposed its own ideas, ripping the ads from some innocent advertisers, and giving it to some truly evil ones
Here’s what they’ve gone and done now:
First, they sold over $150k in ads to a Russian troll farm. The ads may/may not have impacted the US election, but they all went to scandalously fake news websites that passed themselves off as legitimate.
Then, they tried to redeem themselves by tightening up their rules, introducing policy that content that contains hate speech would no longer be eligible for advertising.
But then, it was revealed that user-generated ad targeting audiences included less than ideal groupings. Like: “Jew Haters”.
So, they’ve shut down a bunch of their features, like targeting people by employer, by education and cracking down on a host of new types of content.
Aside from the fact that we have fewer toys to play with in the back-end, we’ve started to see the limitations cropping up.
Example 1: Shows and concerts can no longer use the phrase: “Live at…” or “Live in…” because Facebook believes that we’re trying to deceptively sell real estate, given that your creative and your link likely won’t include a picture of a house and a Walk Score.
Example 2: Persona targeting is significantly more difficult because, I don’t know about you, but when I map out the people who are in my ideal set I almost always include education and employment.
Example 3: Physical injuries are out as ad content. Sorry Doctors, Physios, Band Aids, Advil, soccer teams who want to make fun of each other, or really anyone who’s in the business of health treatment.
More importantly, these guidelines are applied by humans. Thousands of them who have to use their discretion, and the result is widely fluctuating variations of what is “appropriate”.
Tip: If you have an ad that you really want to get up and it gets rejected, apply for a review by clicking on the notification that you get. If the appeal gets rejected, then just create the ad again with a new name. There’s a better than decent shot that your new reviewer will have different standards than the first.
I don’t disagree that Facebook, as one of the world’s primary advertising channels, must introduce guidelines, but when you mix their imposed morality with vague guidelines and a healthy amount of subjectivity, you get an ad platform that is unpredictable for both the advertiser and the user.
My advice: Continue to use Facebook in your paid strategy, of course, because it’s the most targeted and potentially the most efficient advertising available.
But, make sure that you’re planning to get your ads shut down on a regular basis and be forced to resubmit, alter, or change course entirely. The feedback that you get when rejected is actually pretty helpful, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you have to re-create work.
The best thing that we can all do is to focus on creating outstanding content that people legitimately want to share. That’s both because that’s just the best use of our efforts, and because it’s hard for any platform to shut down content and a community that people love.