Update: As of November 11, 2020, Facebook announced that it will continue its temporary pause on social issue, political and election ads for another month (though there may be opportunity for ads to resume sooner).
Today, I was a part a webinar hosted by Facebook that covered the new ads restrictions period in the U.S. The webinar, presented by Darcey Kane Geary and Cameron Zick, marketing managers within Facebook’s Business and Elections Integrity department, provided a wealth of information on how social and political organizations can prepare for the restriction period that starts October 27.
If you manage content around social issues, elections or politics in the US, this is key information that you will want to plan for now as you consider your Facebook ad or content strategy leading up to November 3.
What is the Facebook ad restriction period?
In short, advertisers won’t be able to run new ads about social issues, elections or politics during the time period of October 27 – November 3.
Facebook’s reasoning behind this new restriction is that it is important to allow time for fact-checks for eligible content, give those running for political office a chance to answer or refute claims, and to scrutinize or respond to issues before the polls close.
While Facebook won’t accept new ads, advertisers will be able to continue running ads that have started prior to the restriction time period as long as the ad(s) have collected impressions prior to the restriction start date of October 27.
How can I continue running ads during the restriction period?
If you wish to continue paid advertising on Facebook through the restriction period, Facebook recommends you work through the following:
- Completed the authorization process by providing identification to confirm who you are
- Provide an address to confirm your location in the US
- Created a “paid for by” disclaimer
- Comply with community standard and advertising policies
- Clear the Facebook ad review and have your ad(s) approved to run (standard turnaround time is 72 hours)
- The ad(s) needs to have seen an impression before the Oct. 27 start date
What CAN I do during the Facebook ad restriction period?
While the content of your ads cannot be changed during the restriction period, there are things that you can do during the restriction period as long as it is not a new ad. During the ad restriction dates you will still be allowed to:
- Pause existing ads
- Un-pause any paused ads as long as they have delivered an impressions before October 27
- Edit the ad schedule (setting a new end date, for example)
- Edit the bid amount
- Edit the budget
- Edit the targeting* (i.e.: geographic or demographic changes, changes in interest, etc.)
*NOTE: While you are allowed to make targeting edits, advertisers will want to remember that in doing so, your ad will be sent back through the ad review process (which can take up to another 72 hours).
What CAN’T I do during the Facebook ad restriction period?
Content is the main piece here; you cannot edit the content, context or author of the ad(s). More specifically, during this time, you will not be able to:
- Edit or upload new video assets
- Edit or upload new image assets
- Edit or provide a new caption (body text)
- Edit or provide a new landing page
- Boost an organic post (as this would be considered a new ad)
- Change the objective for the ad
- Change the page from with the ad is running
- Run the ad from a new ad account
- Change the conversion tracking
- Change the optimization
- Change the bid type
- Remove or change the “paid for by” disclaimer
- Edit the placement
- Duplicate an ad(s)
Ahead of the restriction period, Facebook provided a few suggestions to ensure organizations are ready for the change.
- Start your process of authorization today. Allow for 4-5 days to complete this process for approved disclaimers, etc.
- Complete the ad authorization process by October 20 to ensure you’re authorized to run ads about social issues, elections or politics
- Create your social issue, electoral or political ads before October 23, ensuring that your ads are live and delivering before October 27 at 12:01AM PT
Standard Facebook review turnaround times verify for different steps in the process. As a rule of thumb, you can expect, at minimum:
- ID verification: 48 hours
- Disclaimer review: 124 hours
- Ad reviews: 72 hours
Always remember that these times will vary. The key is to submit things well in advance.
Best practices ahead of the Facebook ad restriction period
This may seem like a lot of information and a bit overwhelming, so in that vein, I’ve compiled a list from the call with Facebook to help you navigate this change.
- Familiarize yourself with ads about social issues, elections or politics (understand what that means and what can be considered content that falls within these categories)
- Get started early with ad authorization. Account for at least 4-5 days to complete this process.
- Set up two-factor authentication and submit US ID for verification
- Set up “Paid for by” disclaimer and link to an ad account
- Identify issue, electoral or political ads; mark them as such when setting them in Facebook Ad Manager
- Get started early with ad creation
- Review Facebook’s policies, including Community Standards and Advertising Policies
- Bid and budget for a competitive ad auction
- Use ad creative that will last through election day. For example: “Vote on November 3” instead of “Vote today” to prevent any confusion. This will also help your ads continue to make sense if they are running during the restriction period
What is a social issue ad?
In listening to Facebook’s Business and Election Integrity team, social issue ads are around content/issues that become heavily debated. They’re sensitive topics. They are topics that may impact the outcome of an election or proposed legislation. Examples include:
- Civil and social rights
- Environmental politics
- Political values and governance
- Security and foreign policy
Facebook looks at the content of the ad (not the advertiser). Images, text and positioning, in addition to the content, are all reviewed. Ads are always required to follow Facebook’s Community Standards, no matter the issue. The Facebook Help Center may also be a good resource for more information on what does and does not require more authorization.
Advertisers must be located in the US to run ads in the US. If it is determined that advertisers are located outside the US, the ad will be rejected. This includes agencies running ads on behalf of an organization.
Tips to avoid challenges ahead of the Facebook ad restriction period
Take the time up front to review policies and set up your ads ahead of time. In addition:
- Ensure disclaimers will continue working by assigning a Page Admin co-ownership to your disclaimers (this is helpful in any instance in the event that the sole person with this authority leaves the company, etc.)
- Keep disclaimer information (i.e. website, email address, phone number) functional at all times. If Facebook finds that this information isn’t valid, your ad will be rejected.
- For account security requirements, keep your two-factor authentication turned on
- Don’t change your profile name and other name fields in settings
- Launch evergreen ads before the restriction period
During the call, Facebook addressed some key questions that you may find helpful as you plan ahead. I’ve captured a few, below:
Will this restriction period for ads remain in placed after the election is results are delayed? At this time, Facebook is planning to remove the restrictions
If ads bout social issues, election or politics are taken down for missing disclaimers during the restriction period, will advertisers be able to resubmit ads for review and still have them run? You will not be able to re-submit these ads to run during the Oct. 27 – Nov. 3 restriction period. This is why it’s so important to do everything ahead of time and understand these policies.
Does the restriction period apply to organic posts about social issues, elections and politics as well? No. Pages will be allowed to post organically. All posts remain tied to community standards and policies, however.
The over-arching question we’re hearing among organizations is “why now?” As mentioned above, Facebook has moved to this restriction period so that campaigns to make their closing arguments before votes are cast. It is the opinion of Facebook that this also allows for “get out the vote” campaigns, fact-checks, discussions and counter-point messages.
“One of the most important things that Facebook can do during this election is help people find the important, relevant information; registering to vote and starting the process to register by mail. It is also our goal to help 4 million people register to vote.” – Cameron Zick, Facebook marketing manager, Business and Election Integrity department
Additional steps Facebook is taking to protect the US elections
As Cameron and Darcey closed the webinar today, they highlighted four areas where Facebook has made strides in protecting US elections.
- Connecting people with authoritative voting information (Voting Information Center)
- Doing more to reduce the spread of misinformation
- Preventing misrepresentations or threats about voting
- Strengthening enforcement against violence
You can learn more about these updates in the Facebook Newsroom.
Bottom line: If you are an advertiser with plans to run ads in the social issue, election or political spaces, do your research, get your ducks in a row and plan for what the Facebook ad restriction period may mean for you. Use the links and resources provided above to ensure you’ve hit all the required marks in order to keep your content approved and running during this time. And spread the word; let’s make sure advertisers in these areas understand that new ads will not be allowed October 27 – November 3, 2020.
And be sure to vote on November 3.