What You Need to Know about Facebook’s Special Ads Category

May 4, 2022
By   Alexandra Few
Category   Social Media
Facebook Special Ad Category interface that lists categories about credit, employment, housing, or social issues, elections or politics.

Facebook is increasingly enforcing rules and restrictions for ads that fall into certain categories. This blog post will outline what those categories are, and the steps you need to take before planning your next campaign on the platform to ensure your ads do not get rejected.

What is the Facebook Special Ad Category & Why Does It Exist?

Facebook’s Special Ad Category encompasses any ads that pertain to employment, credit, housing, and politics. This means that if your ads include any mention of these topics, you will need to specify so within Facebook’s Ads Manager when you are creating your campaign, and once this is selected, your ads will have a limited targeting.

This was put in place because Facebook wants to eliminate any discrimination that could occur when advertising within these categories. Prior to its implementation in 2019, Facebook allowed advertisers to target users based on several segments, such as their interests or backgrounds, and even permitted the ability to exclude specific groups, which was categorized under “Ethnic Affinities.”  For example, certain ads about job opportunities, home sales, and credit offers could be displayed only for white men in high-income neighbourhoods, while ads about pay-day loans or minimum wage jobs could be targeted to people of colour in low-income neighbourhoods. After numerous lawsuits, Facebook announced in March 2019 they would limit niche targeting in these types of campaigns in an effort to remove discrimination on the platform.

Types of Topics that Fall Under the Special Ad Category

Employment ads refer to:

  • Full- or part-time jobs
  • Internships
  • Professional certificate programs
  • Job boards or job fairs
  • Mention of the benefits of working at a particular company (even if the post does not include a specific job listing)

Credit ads refer to:

  • Credit cards (regardless of if the ads include a specific offer or not)
  • Mortgage loan or refinancing offers
  • Loan services (personal, business, or auto)

Housing ads refer to:

  • Sale or rental opportunities (this applies to houses, condos, apartments, or other types of housing)
  • Homeowners or mortgage insurance opportunities
  • Housing loan ads
  • Home equity services
  • Home or property appraisals
  • Housing repair services

If your ads fall into these categories, the opportunity to target various audiences will be limited compared to what you might be used to with regular ads. Targeting restrictions include:

  • Age targets will be set to 18-65+
  • You won’t be able to target by gender or postal code
  • There is reduced interest targeting
  • Radius targeting will be set to a minimum of 15 miles around the targeted city, address or pin-drop
  • Exclusions are unavailable
  • You cannot use audience expansion
  • Custom audiences need to refrain from characteristics like gender or street address
  • Lookalike audiences are excluded altogether (though you can create something similar called Special Ad Audiences)

Creating Ads Within the Special Ads Category

There are several steps to follow when creating advertisements that fit within Facebook’s Special Ad Category:

  • At the campaign level, you must select which topic (employment, housing, credit or politics) your ads are about in the Special Ad Category dropdown.
  • When selecting your audience interests, you will notice some restrictions: you can only select a limited amount of interests, and no Behaviours & Demographics, such as in regular campaigns
  • Despite the limited interests, there are still many to choose from. For example, if you are running real estate ads, the interests available include things like first-time buyer, property, mortgage broker, house hunting, real estate investing, home equity, etc. (Note: After selecting a couple, click on the “suggestions” button to see other available options recommended by Facebook)
  • Your saved audiences, if applicable, may be altered, as Facebook will create a version that removes detailed targeting related to age, gender, interests unavailable the Special Ads Category, etc.
  • If you choose to include Custom Audiences, you need to ensure you are including certain personal characteristics. Custom Audiences are created based on those who have already shown interest in your business among those who are on Facebook and Instagram. Some of the sources you can obtain data from include customer lists, engagement on Facebook/Instagram, people who have messaged your Facebook/Instagram page, people who have saved any of your posts or ads, etc. (Note: If uploading first-party data manually, you must confirm to Facebook that your customer lists include information directly from your customers and that you have their necessary permissions from them to share their info.)
  • Since Lookalike Audiences are excluded within Facebook’s Special Ad Category, were initially replaced with Special Ad Audiences, which used online behaviour similarities from people in your Custom Audiences to form new audiences. These were similar to Lookalike Audiences, but they complied with the Special Ad Category’s audience restrictions. However, in August 2022, Meta announced they were no longer allowing the creation of Special Ad Audiences, as part of their legal settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. There is no longer any Lookalike Audience-type offering in Special Ads Category.

Appealing Rejected Ads

Facebook’s ads review is not always perfect, and you might find your ad rejected because Facebook thinks it should be within the Special Ad Category when you believe it shouldn’t. When this happens, you can appeal the decision and request another review at the ad level. This can usually take up to four days, and will likely be reviewed by automated technology, although humans are work at Facebook to review ads as well.

Facebook-conducted reviews can occur at several points throughout the lifecycle of your ad, which means even your ad goes live, Facebook can re-evaluate it and possibly reject it mid-campaign.

There are a variety of reasons why your ad gets rejected, separate from the Special Ads Category, which can include:

Failing to Declare the Special Ad Category

Due to the targeting limitations, it may be tempting to avoid declaring the Special Ads Category when creating campaigns. However, by advertising on Facebook, you are agreeing to follow their policies. Too many rejected ads can impact your business account’s quality ranking, and you risk having your ad account or page being completely shut down. This means you could lose all your advertising history and your page’s fans and authority, resulting in the need to start all over again. Don’t take the risk!


Facebook Facebook Advertising Special Ads Category


Alexandra Few

Alexandra is a Content Producer at Reshift Media.

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