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Facebook relaxes its policy on social issue ads, allowing product-focused ads to run without a disclaimer.

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Facebook has announced an update to its social issues ad policy that would essentially loosen the social issues qualification, allowing more advertisements to run without the ‘paid for by’ disclaimer.

time for social We will explain the most important details on this topic

In the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential Election, Facebook imposed a slew of new limits and parameters on political and issue-based advertising in order to increase transparency about who’s paying and push efforts to sway public opinion.

The need that all marketers who want to run political or issue ads to be verified are a fundamental part of this.

As explained by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

“To get verified, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location. Any advertiser who doesn’t pass will be prohibited from running political or issue ads. We will also label them and advertisers will have to show you who paid for them.”
As a result, any Facebook ad linked to a social problem now requires both authentication and a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer remark, which consumers may click to learn more about the firm or organization behind the campaign.

But now, Facebook’s looking to ease back on that slightly:

“Because the primary purpose of some of these ads is not to engage in advocacy, we’re changing the way we approach a subset of them. Advertisers will no longer be required to complete the authorization process or include a “Paid for by” disclaimer to run if we determine an ad includes the below three criteria:

  1. A product or service is prominently shown in use or named or referenced in the ad;
  2. The primary purpose of the ad is to sell a product or promote a service, even if the ad content includes advocacy for a social issue; and
  3. The ad content contains a call-to-action to purchase or use the product or service.”

As a result, if an advertisement is related to a social issue but is directly selling a product rather than relating back to advocacy, it will no longer be subject to the same regulations.

To explain the change, Facebook has supplied a few examples:

“No longer a social issue ad: “Our new show, “Our Only Future,” on how we can tackle climate change will premiere next month in your city. Purchase your early-bird tickets now for €10.”

Because this ad promotes a commodity rather than advocating for a specific social problem, Facebook claims that authorization and the ‘paid for by’ disclaimer are no longer required.

Social issue ad: “Our leather patches just arrived. Each patch is embroidered with ‘Support refugees.’ Shop now!”

On the other hand, even though this example promotes a product, it clearly states social problem advocacy messaging, necessitating the use of a disclaimer.

It’s probably more difficult to determine how the same process applies to, say, an image of a product that doesn’t include the specifics in the text, but each ad is subject to review, and the basic idea here is that brands can promote social issue-related products and services as long as the ad doesn’t explicitly advocate for action or support. If it does, they can still run the advertisement, but they’ll have to go through the authorization process.

Even yet, it appears to be a little perplexing. According to my interpretation of the three requirements listed above, this last example should not be classed as an issues ad because its major promotional CTA is a product.

There’s bound to be some misunderstanding, but the gist is that Facebook – or Meta – wants to make it easier for more firms to run advertisements by removing the burden of going through the more stringent measures to promote products that are tangentially tied to social causes.

To be honest, it appears to be a bit inconsistent and vulnerable to abuse, but the Facebook ads team will be in charge of enforcement, which should hopefully restrict any potential grey areas or abuse.

I wouldn’t bet on it, though. Would it be possible to slip through the newly developed cracks in this policy if, for example, I sell t-shirts that read “climate change is a hoax,” but I don’t include it in the caption text, and the ad is for a product? What if I work for the oil and gas lobby? Wouldn’t that be a crucial disclosure for transparency?

In any case, the regulation has been amended, which means that impacted marketers and organizations will have to take into account new factors.

You can read more about Facebook’s social issues ads policy here.

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