How to Adapt to Facebook’s New Targeting Restrictions

by | Nov 15, 2019 | INSIGHTS

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If you use Facebook Business Manager regularly, it should come as no surprise that they have once again changed the rules. This time, it’s Facebook’s targeting restrictions.

It’s a well-known fact that Facebook is constantly updating their policies and changing their stance on certain topics. Near the end of the summer, you probably noticed some changes to the Facebook targeting restrictions specific to discrimination regarding employment, credit and housing. For more details on their Discriminatory Practices policy, visit their advertising policies here.

These are important changes and should be taken seriously. They came about due to multiple civil rights organizations filing litigation against Facebook, which Cheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, called out in this press release back in March of 2019. 

These targeting restrictions primarily affect the
banking, housing and recruiting industries.

Many of these targeting restrictions were already heavily governed by the regulatory bodies overseeing the banking and housing industries. However, with the rise in popularity of digital marketing and advertising, enforcing these restrictions has become increasingly more difficult.

A self-serve advertising platform like Facebook Business Manager is even more difficult for the regulatory bodies to police than traditional advertising avenues, which has caused Facebook to come under fire. 

Auditing a bank’s advertising to ensure they were in compliance with these policies used to be as simple as the FDIC going in and reviewing newspaper tear sheets and billboard mock ups. The flexibility of digital advertising removed the simplicity of this process, which has prevented many smaller organizations from taking advantage of this type of outreach.  

In an effort to remove concerns surrounding descrimination from ads specific to these particular special ad categories, Facebook has chosen to take action.  

While it’s no longer possible to use traditional targeting for these particular categories, it is still possible to create what Facebook is calling a “Special Ad Category.”

Special ad categories allow for Facebook targeting specific to online browsing behavior as long as race, gender, age and zip codes are excluded.

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What is classified as a Facebook special ad category?

It is imperative that you have a clear understanding of what special ad category you should choose when placing ads for any industry affected by these new policies. This will allow you to continue serving ads that fall within these industries.

  • Are you an HR manager recruiting nurses for a new long-term care facility? This is considered an employment opportunity and would have to be classified as a Facebook special ad category. 

  • Are you a local realtor trying to sell your neighbor’s house? That would be considered a housing opportunity and would be classified as a Facebook special ad category. 

  • Do you work for a bank trying to target individuals in the market for a new vehicle with auto loan rates? That, too, would be considered a Facebook special ad category as a credit opportunity, and would need to ensure any ad was in compliance with Facebook’s discrimination policies.
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Why is Facebook doing this? 

For quite some time now, Facebook has been under a microscope which has required them to make updates to their restrictions almost constantly. 

That isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Lawsuits, changes in industry regulations, and even self-policing are forcing them to make some much needed changes. In all reality, these particular changes are being made because of Facebook coming under scrutiny by several civil rights organizations, including the ACLU.


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What’s changing?

One of the beauties of digital advertising has always been that you don’t have to place an ad and hope your target audience shows up to see it. Rather, you can personalize the copy, images, and targeting to ensure you get the right message in front of the right person at the right time. 

These particular updates are specifically going to affect the ability to serve custom messages and/or creative to particular target audiences on Facebook. Even if you were already following the rules put in place by the regulating bodies of banks, credit unions, etc., you still had the ability to target men and women with different messages. Today, that is not possible on Facebook. 

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So, how does this affect your day-to-day?

Historically, LumenAd has encouraged clients to design separate creative for different age ranges, genders, etc. Due to these new regulations, it is no longer possible to serve a message crafted to resonate with men versus women or millenials versus baby boomers. This should be taken into consideration when laying out the strategy, messaging, and design of any ads falling into these special ad categories. 

These restrictions don’t mean you can’t run a successful housing, employment, or credit ad. It simply means you have to get back to your traditional advertising roots and think through designing a message and choosing an image that will resonate with both men and women, regardless of their age, race or location.

At the end of the day, how do you stay up to speed on these ever-changing ad restrictions? 

If you don’t have the resources in-house to dedicate to researching and staying up-to-date on the monthly, weekly, even sometimes hourly changes, find a solid managed media partner. How do you determine what makes a solid media partner? Start with transparency – and asking yourself these 4 questions.

When it comes to the success of brands and agencies in the digital advertising ecosystem, it’s incredibly important to have the ability to be agile and adapt to these ever-changing restrictions.

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