Facebook Special Ad Categories Will Require You Change Your Ad Strategy
Digital Marketing 101, Facebook Advertising

Facebook Special Ad Categories Will Require You Change Your Ad Strategy

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I don’t know if you’ve been paying a lot of attention to your Facebook Ad Manager, but if you have, you’ve probably seen an alert banner in the top of your manager telling you that starting August 26th, Facebook is going to require advertisers in three key groups to specify that their ads fall in a special ad category.

Specifically, this applies to you if you are running ads that are related to credit, employment or housing. The reason they are doing this is because of an ongoing battle the company has been going through trying to maintain the integrity of their advertising platform, while at the same time trying to ensure that advertisers comply with their non-discrimination policies.

Here are the special ad categories that Facebook is introducing:


This applies to anyone that creates ads for credit card offers, vehicle loans, long-term financing or other related opportunities.


This applies to those who create ads for job offers, internships, professional certification programs or other related opportunities.


This applies to anyone that runs ads for property listings, home insurance, mortgages or other related opportunities.

Limitations of Special Ad Category Ads

Any campaigns created using any of the above special ad categories will face some limitations when it comes to audience targeting. Facebook’s theory is that this will help advertisers not discriminate against people based on certain personal characteristics, as defined by Facebook’s Discriminatory Practices Policies.

The following options are different or unavailable for ads that fall into the Special Ad Categories

  • Saved audiences: You cannot use previously created saved audiences, as this option is greyed out.
  • Locations: You can target your ads to people by geographic location (such as country, region, state, province, city or county), but not by postcode. Additionally, location selections will automatically include a 15-mile radius around that targeted city, address or pin-drop.
  • Age: Your target audiences must include ages 18 through 65+ (the whole age range. This filter is not editable).
  • Gender: Your target audiences must include all genders.
  • Detailed targeting: Some demographic, behavior and interest options are unavailable (e.g. income or educational level). Excluding any detailed targeting, selections is also unavailable.

The “Special Ad Category” step will be added in the campaign creation flow which you can check or not check, depending on the type of campaign you intend on running.

If I Am In One Of These Categories, Do I Have To Disclose This?

While it’s true that Facebook can’t force you to check the special ad category checkbox when you run your campaigns, not clicking it and having your ads part of one of these categories can lead to catastrophic consequences. The likely scenario is they will ultimately catch you when they are reviewing your ad.

As Facebook continues to grow and their platform continues to be improved, they are finding these sorts of things out more and more in real-time every day. it is very likely their response will be to terminate your ad account. When this happens, it is very difficult, and sometimes even impossible to get your account reinstated. So unless you want to risk being kicked off the platform altogether, you really need to play by the rules Facebook has established and be a “good citizen”.

So With These New Policies, Will My Ads Be Ineffective?

While I’m sure it’s easy to simply get pissed at Facebook and decide their new rules suck and their platform isn’t right for your marketing efforts anymore, this is actually not the case. The new policies, while super restrictive just mean that marketers need to step up their game and do better.

For instance, if you are a solar company that regularly runs ads about zero percent down solar financing, instead of running those types of ads, change your content strategy. By shifting to an educational campaign about the benefits of going solar and educating users about the install process you can keep from having to claim a special ad category and can continue to market with your specific geographic needs, cross-referenced with something like income or educational level for instance. 

Where it gets a little more difficult is for housing. If you are a Real Estate agent and you’re trying to figure out how you can effectively market your listings online, given the new restrictions, you need to greatly change your marketing strategy. While there are many changes you need to make, it’s not impossible to still generate great lead traffic into your sales funnel.

For instance, if you are running an ad for a coming soon listing, craft your ad copy to speak directly to the persona of your ideal customer. Don’t just give the general, “3 beds, 2 baths, blah blah blah” content. Tell a story that speaks to your ideal client’s life circumstances, goals or struggles. This will ensure the people you are forced to target that don’t fit your ideal client bucket (e.g. an 18-year-old) will just blow past the ad, ensuring that any lead you get off the ad is optimized to get you only the most qualified traffic. Done correctly, Facebook’s learning process will take over and actually help you. 

You see, during the learning process, Facebook analyzes who is engaging with your ads. Once that process is completed, their algorithm specifically only shows your ad to people that are most like the people that engaged with your ad during the learning process. So in other words, if you craft your ad copy to repel 18-year-olds, but draw in your ideal client, after the learning phase, your ads will most likely only be shown to those users that represent your ideal clients.

Secondly, it’s important that you no longer rely so heavily on Facebook lead forms. If you hook your ads to a landing page that is hosted on your website, you can later create retargeting audiences based on people that visited your landing page and do further marketing to them. The marketing you are going to be doing to this group of people won’t be listing related ads, but instead educational, “newsworthy” content. By shifting the content to that category, you are no longer running housing ads, so you can specifically target these people (and also lookalike audiences of people that are similar to the people that visited your landing page), educating and delighting them, moving them down your funnel, while at the same time getting them to think of you as the thought leader in your marketplace.

Bottom Line: Facebook Didn’t Break Their Platform. They Are Just Reuiqring You To Work Harder

The engine is not broken. It just now requires a different type of fuel to run it. If you’re an advertiser that’s been lazy and simply running ads to get the low bearing fruit, you are in for a rude awakening if you don’t change your ad strategies. If you are willing to do more though and provide value and content to your prospects, with a few extra steps you can still operate effectively on Facebook’s platform, ensuring that you are getting the right leads (translation: Not anybody with a pulse), that will help you grow your pipelines and do more business.

Chris Leo

Chris Leo

Chris Leo is a Silicon Valley, CA entrepreneur, complete workaholic, top notch inbound marketer, dad to the coolest kid on the planet, type “A” personality, shameless self-promoter and never ending “connector”.

Even though he is seemingly always working, when he does take breaks, the “work hard, play hard” motto takes on a whole new meaning. Most people talk about "wanting to do things", Chris goes out and actually does them.

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