A while back, we went with a client through the process of social cause certification for Facebook. Just this week we tried to boost a post for this client about an upcoming event. The ad was rejected. We didn’t think the ad was political, frankly, so we asked for a review. As we jumped through some related hoops, we received this message from Facebook:
“Advertisers can’t publish new issue, electoral or political ads in the US October 27, 2020 12:01 AM Pacific Time through November 3, 2020 11:59 PM Pacific Time…We’re temporarily stopping all ads about social issues, elections and politics in the US after the polls close on November 4 12:00 AM Pacific Time. We’ll notify advertisers when this policy is lifted.”
In other words, you can’t create any new issue-related ads, and any current ones will be stopped at midnight on Election Day. For an indefinite period.
Issue ads may be showing support for a political candidate, but they may also be about healthcare, climate change, or civil rights. You might not think those topics are inherently political, but they are about “issues of national importance,” so they’re covered by Facebook’s policy on political or issues ads.
Facebook has special rules for ads like these. They want to make sure that you and I are not Russian spies trying to influence the upcoming election. Or something like that.
Facebook is also coping with an onslaught of accusations of censorship, as well as accusations that they’re not restricting information enough. Particularly since Facebook is not a publisher but a crowdsourced platform, they are probably feeling beleaguered.
Meanwhile, accounts that planned a big push in the week before the election are feeling frustrated. As are those who got caught in the crossfire.
The New York Times says they don’t think this step will have much effect on political advertising, since currently running ads will not be removed until after the election. However, it could prevent accounts from swooping in with last-minute scandals. The Times also says that Facebook is feeling “alarmed” about the election, coming up in just under a week.
Right now, Facebook is erring on the side of caution. If it’s possible to see your ad as political, they probably will. You’ll need to rethink or delay your ads if they have any overtones of social causes.
Delaying may be difficult, though, since we don’t know how long the cutoff will last.
The best solution is probably twofold:
- Plan a clearly nonpolitical ad campaign that carries as much of your message as possible.
- Use your regular Facebook posts strategically to carry the rest of your message. Ask your followers to Share your posts and make them graphically appealing to increase the chances.
2020 has been an unusual year, and the upcoming election may be an unusual election. We may all have to make adjustments, and this may be one of them.