Facebook Doesn’t Like Black People (Or Gays, Apparently)

March 1st, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

Today as I was creating some ads for a client I came across a glaring issue with ad approval policies of Facebook. Being ME, of course I felt compelled to jump to random conclusions and rant about it when I should have been doing something more productive like… you know… work. Regardless, be prepared for the usual stream-of-consciousness blogging I tend to do.

This image has ZERO to do with this post. - AC

The Post Has Been Approved By Geordi La Forge.

First let me give you some background. A client approached us about generating more plastic surgery leads in Atlanta through Facebook.  So of course before I even created the ads, I had to figure out demographics to fit the client’s needs and the population of Atlanta. This is probably the most important step in the creation of successful Facebook ads. Not to go off course from my rant story, but if you want to see a good response rate from Facebook ads, you have to know who you are showing your ads too.

As a former resident of Atlanta, I already knew who I was going to get to click my ads — early-30s Black women (the largest demographic in Atlanta), young White professionals, and the Gays. Why the Gays? ‘cause they have disposable income, plus are image obsessed and the perfect demo for plastic surgery. I know the last sentence makes me sound like an @$$ but ATL is gay Mecca after all, and my client needs to make a dollar honey boo boo.

So I set up the demos, selected my images (always select images that represent your services or your demographics), wrote my content, and sent my ads for review. Twenty minutes later I see that one of my ads has been disapproved. Instinctively I thought, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have used all those pictures of half-naked men”. But to my surprise, that wasn’t the problem. So I checked my disapproval email and was beyond puzzled that Facebook disapproved my ad featuring a smiling attractive Black woman for, and I quote,

“not adequately reflect[ing] the product or service advertised.”

Knowing my ad was perfectly in line with Facebook’s ACTUAL guidelines, I just thought “If you say so, Facebook approval team,” and kept it trucking, expecting all my other female ads to be disapproved as well. But then an approval email came in and the $#!+ hit the fan.

My ad featuring a naked White woman who I can only assume was pleasuring herself out-of-frame was approved. -insert dramatic sound effect here-

I lost it and immediately had a “Facebook doesn’t like Black people” moment ala Kanye West — how else could I explain the two ads with the same exact content being judged so differently? Are naked White women more adequate for plastic surgery ads? Was the reviewer possibly a militant Sister Soulja-type who refused my ad content on moral grounds that Black women should love themselves as they are? It was all just so confusing.

Well, not satisfied with any of my conclusions, I decided to put my overly sexualized gay male ads against equally provocative ads using a female model.

To make this a fair test, I made sure my new female ads targeted appearance obsessed women ages 21 and up in Atlanta. Even though they were submitted within minutes of each other (I had to resubmit the male ads because “Being Sex on Legs” is not an appropriate headline…), the ad featuring a barely clothed woman fellating a water bottle was approved while the male ad was quickly rejected because it was “not suitable to appear on Facebook”. But wait…Tits McGee is?

Though this is can be chalked up to homophobia or some other gay cause I am pretending to care about today, the real problem is apparent. The ad approval process on Facebook is completely guided by reviewer’s personal beliefs and therefore flawed. Why should someone who may be a feminist, closeted, or Pentecostal (I’m still not sure what they are, but I like that word) tell me what a demographic of people can and cannot see on Facebook? I get no-interest credit card scams and ads with strong Christian overtones served to me all the time (which by the way I find not only repugnant but thoroughly annoying).

As a person who has championed Facebook as a place to grow your brand by finding and advertising to your core demographic, I found it constraining to have these limitations. I’m not advocating that Facebook allow hate speech, nudity, or any other deviant imagery, but would it kill them to have a more consistent ad approval process? Time is money, and I hate spending my days submitting and resubmitting ads with different images with the hope that one gets approved. It’s all so tedious.