When you create a new Facebook ad, or you edit an old one, you’re taking a risk. That risk is the almighty Facebook gatekeeper. Every single ad that runs on the system needs to be reviewed by someone internally at Facebook. Ads must meet the advertising guidelines for approval before they can run.
The problem is, Facebook’s advertising guidelines are long and complex. Here are some excerpts:
- Ads must not contain false, misleading, fraudulent, or deceptive claims or content.
- You may not use Facebook advertising data for any purpose except on an aggregate and anonymous basis.
- Ads must clearly represent the company, product, service, or brand that is being advertised.
- Ads and sponsored stories in the News Feed may not include images comprised of more than 20% text.
Here’s the thing: you and I have both seen ads that seemingly violate one or more of the advertising guidelines, and yet they got through. Facebook’s advertising gatekeepers are either drastically inconsistent or bad at monitoring, due to the sheer number of ads created every day. Doubtless, large parts of it are automated, but it can’t all be automated or else we’d see more issues with just the automation.
In any case, when you create an ad, that ad is “Approved pending review.” In other words, it needs approval from Facebook’s team before it will show up on the site.
Time to Approve
Facebook claims on their knowledge base article about approval that, on average, ad approval takes around 15 minutes. Some people will have never experienced a delay longer than five. Others have likely seen ads floating in limbo for days at a time. Elsewhere, in the community, Facebook reps have said approval can take up to 24 hours.
Ads are sent to review the moment they are created. The common advice for marketers looking to run limited-time or time-sensitive promotions is to create your ads early. Unfortunately, this can hamper the process of split testing, which you will have to anticipate. Unfortunately, there’s no email you can message or account you can flag in order to get your pending review ad pushed through faster.
There are various rumors about factors that can increase your chances of getting an ad through review. Some marketers claim that increasing ad spend will streamline the process. The theory, of course, being that Facebook is prioritizing advertisers with a lot of money. This sounds like a good theory, except the scale of the problem affects everyone.
When a small business ups their spending from $25 per day to $250 per day, that’s a sizable increase. However, when you realize that companies with literal millions of dollars to spend are also advertising, why would Facebook prioritize a $250 daily ad when they could instead prioritize a $10,000 per day ad?
The reality is that changes like that only refresh the pending queue. Each time you edit an ad, that ad needs to go through the approval process again.
Issues With Approval
When your ad is pending approval, if it’s taking a long time, you might be at risk for a denial. Thankfully, Facebook will email you if your ad is denied, including a link to the advertising guidelines and a note about which guideline you have broken.
Possibly one of the most common issues to come across is the 20% text rule. It’s a flaky rule and depends more on positioning than it does on actual text coverage.
You can check out examples of good and bad ads for each major category of guidelines on Facebook’s site. It’s actually a very handy resource, and will show you examples of some of the things Facebook is trying to stay away from.
The most common violations tend to be:
- Poor command over the language. Bad spelling, bad grammar, bad punctuation, it’s all under this banner. It’s also the single most left-to-reviewer-discretion guideline in the entire ads program. You’ve surely seen ads with all caps or misspellings, but for every one you see, hundreds are being rejected.
- Cloaked URLs for landing pages – including links to files that aren’t web pages, like PDFs – will earn you a rejection. They can, in extreme instances, also lead to an account termination.
- Inaccurate ad text. Ad reviewers need to learn a bit about your business and product when your ad is under review. They’ll probably even check out your landing page. If your ad turns out to be too different from what you’re actually selling, issues arise.
- Irrelevant images. Sex sells, but on Facebook, it doesn’t sell unless you’re selling whatever the model in question is wearing or doing. You can’t have an ad for a piece of database software and sell it with pictures of Kate Upton.
So how can you make sure your ads are approved?
Bypassing the Review Process
Well, you can’t bypass the review process entirely. You can, however, do what you can to comply with the standards Facebook sets and ensure your ad gets through quickly.
Having an account in good standing is a benefit. If your account has been flagged for ad violations in the past, you’ll struggle with the review process as you’re under more scrutiny.
Edited ads are more likely to be approved than new ads, as long as the edits are minor. Changing targeting, a tweak to copy, etc. Facebook can compare to the old version and see both that the old version was approved and the new version is not much different.
Obviously, you need to comply with prominent ad guidelines, such as the rules for targeting minors with alcohol, tobacco, drug or firearms content. The same goes for geographic restrictions on these products.
Here’s one you might not realize; “you” is a bad word. If your ad mentions the user directly and personally, specifically if it uses individual data, it will be rejected.
Be careful with your copy, choose relevant images, don’t cloak destination links and you should be good to go.