Decoding (and Fixing!) Facebook Ad Disapprovals

Oct 17, 2018 1:24:00 PM

Thanks to the recent changes taking place in Facebook Ad guidelines and a more strict ad approval process, we’d like to formally welcome you to the land of confusion.

Population: 90% of Facebook Advertisers.

When working with Facebook Ads, it’s been always been difficult to find answers when you run into trouble. Dealing with disapproved ads is no exception.

With little information provided from Facebook, you can often end up wasting time, money and ultimately, after enough disapprovals, can risk your ad account being flagged.

giphy

 

This can be extremely frustrating and can leave you feeling hopeless. No one, I repeat no one, enjoys seeing the tiny red warning sign pop up in the account (or worse their inbox).

Luckily, we’ve seen a lot of disapprovals, for a variety of different reasons, and we’ve been able to find workarounds—now, we want to offer up some advice.

We want to help you go from this…

To this.

Facebook Ad Review Process

During the ad review process, Facebook checks the ad's images, text, targeting, and positioning, in addition to the content on the ad's landing page.

Facebook cites that your ad may not be approved if:

  • The landing page content isn't fully functional
  • The landing page doesn't match the product/service promoted in your ad
  • Or, the ad/landing page doesn't fully comply with Facebook’s Advertising Policies

The majority of disapprovals come from that last bullet point. If you’d like to take the time to sort through the rather vague and quite long list of Advertising Policies, be our guest. However, for the majority of advertisers, it’s hard to know exactly what’s wrong with an ad, and more importantly how they can fix it given the information in the documentation.

What do I do now?

In terms of Facebook Ad disapprovals, there are two main categories: those you can fix and those you can’t. Once you’re notified that your ad isn’t approved you typically have two options, either edit the original ad or appeal the decision.

Although you can appeal the decision immediately, or choose to simply re-submit the ad again, I suggest you first take a look at the short explanation text within Ads Manager or the ad notification in your email. If you find that your disapproval doesn’t match anything on these lists, I highly encourage you to submit an appeal for the ad. Every once in a while, an ad that was previously rejected becomes approved after submitting it again (the system isn’t perfect).

Keep in mind, too many disapprovals can flag your ad account, so be careful. If you don’t want to risk your account being disabled (meaning all current campaigns will be shut off), you may want to edit the ad.

Disapprovals You Can Fix

When editing the ad, the fixes range from super simple image swaps, to more complex, full redos. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, we’ve included some of the common reasons Facebook might deny your ad and some steps to take to fix those issues.

 

"Targeting" Headlines / Ad Copy

One of the most common reasons for an ad not getting approved, (as well as one of the easiest fixes) is the use of targeting within headlines or ad copy. Ads can’t contain text that “asserts or implies personal attributes.”

This includes a person’s:

  • Race
  • Ethnic origin
  • Religion
  • Beliefs
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation or practices
  • Gender identity
  • Disability
  • Medical condition (physical or mental health)
  • Financial status
  • Membership in a trade union
  • Criminal record
  • Name
  • Images that may shock or scare viewers
  • Images that are scary, gory or sensational
  • Ads depicting violence or threats of violence

The fix: Typically, removing the word “other” or “you” from the copy, will allow the ad to be approved.

 

Sensational Content

Any ad containing “shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content” will be disapproved.

Struggling to picture this? Here are some examples:

 

The fix: A quick image swap or slight change of copy will have you back up and running. Keep in mind, images showing violence (real or fictional) will be flagged. Try and keep sensational content at a minimum as there really isn’t a set formula for images that work better in this scenario.

Unrealistic Claims

Deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or methods.” In terms of misleading content, we tend to see the majority of disapprovals in the health and wellness space and when used to discuss money payouts for certain situations.

“Learn to Lose Belly Fat” is very different from “3 Shocking Tips to Lose All Your Belly Fat”. The first headline would be approved, but the second would be denied.

The fix: As a general rule of thumb, only include accurate and non-misleading claims within ad and landing page copy. Make sure information about services or the product is clear and not exaggerated.

Nudity / Sexuality

Unless you’re showcasing a statue within the ad, “nudity, depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative” will not get approved.

approval

 

No artistic or educational images are allowed, even if not explicitly sexual. This includes:

  • Nudity or implied nudity
  • Excessive visible skin or cleavage
  • Images focused on individual body parts, such as abs, buttocks or chest.

The fix: When working in underwear, bathing suits or any other industries that might get flagged—the more clothing the better. No tight cropping on individual “areas” (as mentioned above), and no poses that are “suggestive”. If possible, flatlays of the product are a great workaround. Once the item is on the model, you start to have a longer approval process and leave yourself open to the possibility of disapprovals, as well.

Additional Categories

As we mentioned early, these are some of the most common issues we’ve seen while running Facebook Ads. However, according to Facebook’s Advertising Policies there are many other reasons why your ad may get disapproved.

Things like:

  • Brand Usage in Ads
    • Ads can’t the Facebook brand in a way that makes it the most distinctive or prominent feature of the creative. Which includes modifying Facebook brand assets in any way.
    • Plain and simple, leave the Facebook and Instagram brand assets alone. There’s no real need to have them in your ads anyway.

  • Personal Health
    • Ads must not contain "before-and-after" images or images that contain unexpected or unlikely results. This means no scales, no zoomed in photos of stomachs or abs, and especially no “too big pants” on a person’s body.
    • Ads for health, fitness or weight loss products must be targeted to people 18 years or older.
  • Non-Functional Landing Page
    • Ads can’t direct to non-functional landing pages. This includes landing page content that interferes with a person’s ability to navigate away from the page.
    • Make sure all ads point to real, live websites or landing pages. Error pages, landing pages that are just jpeg files, or landing pages that automatically download files to the person’s computer are all no-gos.
  • Tobacco Products
    • Ads can’t promote the sale or use of tobacco products and related paraphernalia.
    • However, anti-smoking ads are just fine. Just be sure to use imagery that showcasing the anti-smoking stance.
  • Drugs & Drug-Related Products
    • Ads can’t promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs. This includes, medical and recreational marijuana even in places where it’s currently legal.
    • Ads for rehabilitation programs and support groups are allowed.
  • Unsafe Supplements
    • Including but not limited to anabolic steroids, chitosan, comfrey, dehydroepiandrosterone, ephedra, and human growth hormones.
    • Although this one is a little bit more vague, Facebook ultimately has the final say on what they will allow.
  • Weapons, Ammunition, or Explosives
    • Ads can’t promote the sale or use of weapons, weapon modification accessories, ammunition, or explosives.
    • Plastic guns, swords and toy weapons are fine.
  • Adult Products or Services
    • Ads can’t promote the sale or use of adult products or services, except when referencing family planning and contraception.
    • Ads for contraceptives must focus on the contraceptive features of the product, but can’t focus on sexual pleasure or enhancement, and must be targeted to people 18 years or older.

Disapprovals You Can’t Fix

Unfortunately, there are some disapprovals you can’t fix when working with Facebook Ads. Typically these disapprovals have to do with the product or service you’re promoting either has a general restriction, or more in-depth requirements within the ad targeting.

Products You Can't Sell On Facebook

Some products that you can’t advertise on Facebook include:

Services You Can't Promote (Most Obtain Prior Written Permission)

  • “Try Your Luck at our Online Casino”— Real Money Gambling
    • Must target people 18 years or older
  • “The Next Tinder”— Dating
  • “Win Big in New York”— State Lotteries
    • Only available to government entities on Facebook
  • “Get your Prescription Filled Fast”— Online Pharmacies
  • “Buy Dogecoin, Bitcoin”, etc. — Cryptocurrency Products and Services
  • “Visit Recovery Haven”  — Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Centers

Since the approval process for an individual ad can take up to 24 hours (sometimes longer in other cases), be sure to be mindful and double check your work. Avoid having to go through the whole approval process all over again because of a simple and fixable word misuse.

As with everything else, building Facebook Ads takes practice. Especially when just starting out or implementing new campaigns, it’s important to not let disapprovals discourage you. The majority of disapprovals we see are typically small mistakes that can be solved with quick fixes. Dropping the “you” in the headline, or making the ad copy a bit more boring, gives you an easier starting point and can minimize future disapprovals.

At the end of the day Facebook’s main goal is “to keep Facebook safe for people.” Keeping that goal in mind and being ready to make small tweaks to bring your ad into alignment with Facebook’s Ad Policies can have you back on the road to Facebook Ad success.

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