Trying to follow Facebook ads rules can feel like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. What can you advertise? How can you advertise it? Who are you allowed to advertise to? And once you’ve figured out those answers, how long does the mysterious Facebook ads review process take?
Even when you’ve finally figured out, Facebook changes another marketing policy, and your ads get rejected again. Or they sit in a “pending review” purgatory forever, never to be approved or denied.
We have reviewed all of Facebook’s current advertising rules, policies, and procedures and have organized them here for an easy summary.
- Facebook Ads Review: How Does it Work and How Long Does it Take?
- 5 Facebook Ads Rules to Follow to Get Your Ad Approved
- Facebook Marketing Policy: What You Need to Know
- How to Keep Your Campaign Running If Your Ad Is Denied
Together, we’ll increase your ad approval chances, keep you out of Facebook purgatory, and make sure you know what to do when an ad is rejected.
Facebook Ads Review: How Does it Work and How Long Does it Take?
Facebook has a posted procedure for the steps and the time they take to review your ads. But experience suggests their procedure is more a recommendation than a rule. Here’s what we’ve learned about the Facebook ads review process.
What are the steps of a Facebook ad review?
According to Facebook, ads review is a simple three-step process:
- You submit or edit an ad.
- Your ad is reviewed.
- Your ad is either approved or denied.
Whether your ad is approved or denied, Facebook will let you know by email and/or notification in your account. If your ad is approved, it’ll be published automatically, and you’ll start to see results in Ads Manager.
Behind the scenes, there seems to be a mix of people and machine-based reviews. Facebook says they rely mostly on automated ad reviews but use human reviewers “to improve and train our automated systems and, in some cases, to review specific ads.”
What triggers a Facebook ads review?
There are two scenarios that cause your ads to be reviewed by Facebook:
- You create a new Facebook ad.
- You make changes to an existing ad.
Changes that trigger a review include:
- Changing creative like images, text, video, or link
- Altering the audience you target
- Choosing new optimization goals or billing events
Sometimes, your ad is approved quickly, only to be denied a day or two later. It’s hard to say for sure why that is. The timing suggests that the first approval is done via an automated process, and then a human manually reviews and denies the ad.
How can I speed up my ad review?
Facebook says that most ads are reviewed within 24 hours. In reality, some ads are approved in minutes, while some can take days.
There’s no official expedite function within the Facebook ads review policy; however, there are some things you can do that may help speed things along.
Publish between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.
From our data, we see ads posted during these times often get a faster review.
Domains and ad accounts with a long history of approved ads seem to be denied less often.
Don’t bend the rules.
If your ad is on the edge of breaking one of the Facebook ads rules, it’s more likely to get flagged for additional review. You may win an appeal if it’s denied, but you’ll lose a lot of time in the process.
Allow for extra time in Q4.
Businesses place more ads leading up to the holidays. You can see that play out in the fourth-quarter spikes of Facebook ad revenue.
With all that ad traffic to review, it’s best to give yourself some extra leeway leading up to the Q4 crunch. Ideally, submit ads at least two weeks before you need them to publish.
What if my ad is stuck in review?
Sometimes, your ad gets lost in Facebook limbo, with no status update on approval or denial.
So, my facebook Ad is stuck in “In Review”
Can anyone help me understand what to do? How to solve it?
— Arun Kumar Verma (@arun11192) November 23, 2019
You have two options to unstick your ad if it hasn’t been dealt with in 24 hours: You can submit a form to force a review. Or you can chat with Facebook support through the Facebook Business Help Center. We recommend the first option and that you use chat only if the form fails.
What happens if my ad is denied?
If your ad is denied, Facebook will let you know what rule you’ve broken on your Facebook Account Quality page.
Typically, a few infractions won’t affect anything beyond having those ads denied. If you show a trend of breaking the Facebook ads rules over and over, or if your infraction is egregious, Facebook may take further action, such as disabling, restricting, or revoking your account.
But what do you do if your account is negatively affected?
Welp, my Facebook ads account was banned after a whole 8 hours of running our first ad ever. Is it worth submitting for review or is this a lost cause?
— Scott Robinson (@ScottWRobinson) January 7, 2021
If this happens to you, review this page from Facebook, and contact a representative through Business Center Help.
5 Facebook Ads Rules to Follow to Get Your Ad Approved
Avoiding ad rejection is an important part of Facebook marketing. It starts with understanding what products and content Facebook reviewers will and won’t allow.
1. Don’t advertise prohibited products.
Before you create a single ad or even commit to advertising on Facebook, make sure your products aren’t subject to an automatic Facebook ad ban. Here’s what’s currently not allowed:
Illegal products or services
You can’t advertise any product that would get you arrested or fined for selling. This includes offering age-restricted products to minors.
Tobacco and related products
No cigarettes, cigars, vapes, or any product that simulates smoking. Antismoking ads are OK, as are ads that lead to tobacco-enthusiast groups, like a cigar club — as long as the ads don’t lead to the sale of a related product.
Drugs and related products
This means both illegal and prescription drugs, as well as paraphernalia and images that imply drug use.
Think steroids, ephedra, or human growth hormones. Facebook’s policy on this is clear: They get to decide which products are included in the category, so it’s going to be subjective.
Weapons, ammo, or explosives
Handguns, rifles, and shotguns are obvious exclusions here. But this category also includes pepper spray, tasers, and things like batons and non-culinary knives. You can advertise accessories like holsters, scopes, and gun safes if you set your audience targeting to 18 years or older. Toy guns and gun-safety classes are also allowed.
Adult products or services
You can advertise contraceptive products, but you have to focus the messaging on their contraceptive features, and audience targeting needs to be 18 years or older.
Payday loans or bail bonds
Basically, any loan with a term of less than 90 days designed to cover expenses until the borrower’s next payday is a banned ad product.
This restriction also bans advertising any opportunity to make a quick buck with little investment. You have to be very clear on what your business model and associated products are if you want to promote moneymaking opportunities on Facebook.
They’re also called “bidding fee auctions,” and you can’t advertise them on Facebook.
We hope this is self-explanatory.
2. Do be careful when advertising restricted products.
Additional considerations are required before some products can be advertised on Facebook. If you’re in one of these industries, make sure you know the extra steps it takes to get your ad approved.
Most of the restrictions on alcohol ad placements revolve around age targeting and local laws. For example, in the United States, you can’t target ads for alcohol to an audience under the age of 21. In Canada, the age threshold for alcohol ad targeting is 19.
Dating services, online or otherwise, are subject to lots of ad restrictions. First and foremost, you have to fill out a form to request permission before you can place a single ad. Then, there are additional Facebook ads rules around imagery, language, and the types of services that can be offered (e.g., no mail-order brides).
Online gambling and social casino games
Any game where you have to make a purchase for a chance to win something with monetary value falls into this category, according to Facebook. If that’s your niche, you’ll need to get permission to run your ad, and you’ll need to use proper age targeting and adherence to local laws. Exceptions are brick-and-mortar casinos and government-led lotteries.
Ads for casino games, where no money changes hands, are allowed without preauthorization as long as you restrict audience targeting to people over 18 years of age.
While you can’t advertise for pharmaceuticals at all, you can post an ad for an online pharmacy with advanced written permission.
To sell aspirin, cough syrup, or any over-the-counter drug through Facebook, you’ll need to set age targeting and follow laws and guidelines per your geographic location.
Financial and insurance products
You can advertise credit card applications, mortgage loans, and other financial products, but you have some rules to follow. You have to be clear about loan fees, interest rates, and your physical location. You can’t directly ask for personal financial information. And you have to target your ads to people over the age of 18.
Once you get paid by a company to publish a post, that post becomes an ad (even if you don’t actually pay Facebook to promote that post). A common example is an influencer who publishes a post that features them wearing a brand’s shirt, and they get paid to do so. That’s called branded content. In these cases, the person publishing the post needs to use the branded content tool, which makes it clear to viewers that the post is an ad.
Social issues, elections, politics
Mostly this restriction is about following local regulations for political ads, but it also requires prior Facebook approval. Here are more guidelines and best practices for these types of ads.
Ads for cryptocurrency and related items (e.g., equipment for mining bitcoin) also require prior Facebook approval. You can also run ads for cryptocurrency tax services, events, and trading platforms with this preauthorization.
Cosmetic and weight-loss procedures
Facebook allows ads for elective surgeries like rhinoplasty, dermabrasion, and weight-loss/cosmetic procedures, but you’ll need to get permission first.
3. Do use high-quality, relevant, truthful creative.
Even if you promote an approved and unrestricted product, the Facebook ads review process denies ads if your creative doesn’t adhere to the following guidelines. Creative includes text, images, video, and URLs.
Graphic or adult content
Your ads cannot include images that are sexually explicit, are sexually suggestive, or include nudity. You’ll also need to steer clear of adding shocking, graphic images that depict things like medical procedures, car accidents, or weapons pointed at the viewer.
You may be able to post about a controversial political topic in your organic feed, but you can’t exploit that topic commercially in an ad, says Facebook.
Grammar and profanity
Very poor grammar in an ad gets it flagged for review and/or denial, as does profanity.
Placing a fake “video play” button in your image may get more people to click on your ad, but it’s deceitful, and Facebook won’t allow your ad to run.
Before and after photos
You can’t use images comparing the effects of a product on someone’s appearance. Weight loss and hair restoration are common examples here.
Unproven financial gain, purposely confusing return policies, and cures for incurable diseases are all examples of misleading claims that Facebook doesn’t allow in ads. If you can’t prove it, don’t use it in your ad.
You’ll never believe what Facebook doesn’t allow in ads! Hint: It’s hiding information or using sensational language. Also, don’t try to run up engagements with irrelevant either/or polls (e.g., Hit “like” for hamburgers or “love” for pizza).
This means no flashing strobes or jarring sounds that play without a person’s interaction with your ad.
The updated 20% text on image rule
It used to be that Facebook denied ads that had text covering more than 20% of their image. That rule was removed recently, but it’s still suggested you keep text confined to a small area of your photos. Ads with too much text won’t perform well simply because they are not very nice to look at.
4. Don’t link to an irrelevant, poorly designed landing page or URL.
The Facebook ads review process doesn’t just look at your ad. It also scrutinizes the website your ad links to.
Here are some landing page or URL characteristics that could get your ad blocked by Facebook.
No one likes hitting the “next” button a hundred times to read one short article. Facebook hates it too. So if your ad leads to that kind of content, be ready for denial.
Nonfunctioning or non-matching landing page
Using a call-to-action of “click here and lose unwanted weight” to drive traffic to a divorce attorney’s website might be funny, but Facebook will notice the bait and switch. Your ad will not likely be approved.
Likewise, if the URL included in your ad looks like it leads to one type of landing page, but it’s redirected to something unrelated, your ad won’t run. So don’t use a URL like “www.stopsmokinginstantly.com” to link to a website for chewing tobacco.
5. Don’t misuse Facebook or Instagram brand assets.
Facebook is really picky about how advertisers use their logos and reference their products. Given the seemingly ubiquitous existence of things like the Facebook “thumbs-up” symbol, this can be a tricky thing to avoid. Here’s how to make sure you’re not overstepping Facebook’s brand use guidelines:
You can’t say or imply that your product or service is endorsed by any Facebook company or platform, including Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and so on.
Officially, Facebook says to not make their logos or branding a prominent feature in your ads or on the landing pages they link to. We’ve heard stories about denials of ads that had images with a Facebook-branded box in the background.
If you use screenshots from any version of the Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger user interfaces, make sure it’s represented accurately. Don’t modify or crop the image.
Facebook Marketing Policy: What You Need to Know
Facebook maintains some policies that address broad categories like discrimination. Some are focused on marketing activities, and some also cover organic posts, messages, and comments. In either case, ads that cross these lines are rejected.
Several of the Facebook ads rules include language that prohibits or at least discourages discrimination. If your ads are denied, and you’re not sure why, take a second look to see if anything might be mistakenly interpreted as going against these policies.
Of course your ads can’t directly discriminate against or demean people based on attributes like race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and so on.
With a little deductive reasoning, it’s possible to use audience characteristics— location, interests, etc.— to target ads in a way that unfairly discriminates against some groups of people. Doing so jeopardizes both your ad approvals and your account status with Facebook.
Asserting personal attributes
You can mention a characteristic like ethnicity or religious affiliation in an ad, but you can’t directly or indirectly assert that the viewer has that characteristic.
Here are a few examples from Facebook:
OK: “Meet black singles today!”
Not OK: “Meet other black singles near you!”
OK: “Depression counseling”
Not OK: “Depression getting you down? Get help now.”
Ads can’t contain copy or pictures that try to induce a negative self-image. For example, a weight-loss ad that focuses on body types rather than the product would likely be flagged and denied.
Community standards policy
Facebook has made its community standards public. They apply to all forms of communication on Facebook, not just ads. Many of these standards, like authenticity, duplicate other Facebook ads rules we’ve discussed. But two stand out as covering new ground:
Violence and criminal behavior
Your ads can’t incite, depict, or promote violence or criminal behavior. They also can’t support groups that openly encourage or engage in those behaviors.
Exploitation, harassment, and privacy
These standards cover a lot of ground, but they’re generally meant to say that you can’t use Facebook to bully or take advantage of other people. You also can’t expose anyone’s private information, including images, on the platform.
Personal data policies
As marketers, we love the ability to personalize ad experiences. Consumers are sometimes less enthused and often express privacy concerns. Facebook has policies in place to help ease those concerns.
Any data you collect from your Facebook ads can only be shared internally or with “someone acting on your behalf,” like a service provider.
How to Keep Your Campaign Running If Your Ad Is Denied
If you advertise on Facebook for any length of time, odds are you will have an ad rejected eventually. It’s frustrating, but you do have some options to get your campaign back on track.
Edit your ad
You can simply review the part of your ad that Facebook says doesn’t comply, and then make a change. This is usually the fastest and easiest option with the highest chance of success.
Once you make the change, Facebook automatically re-reviews your ad.
Appeal the ruling
If you’ve reviewed your ad and can’t see anything that conflicts with the Facebook ads rules or policies, you have the option to appeal the decision.
If your ad is denied quickly, like in a few minutes, it probably means something triggered the automated process. Submitting an appeal will move the review to human hands.
Get started by filling out the form that’s linked in your rejection notice on the Facebook Account Quality page. Reference the rule that’s been “broken,” and explain how your ad actually complies with the rule.
Duplicate and resubmit your ad
Although you can’t submit the same ad over and over again for approval, you can create a duplicate ad that’s automatically reviewed.
If a human reviewer denied your ad the first time, it’s possible a new human reviewer may pass it. You can try this as an alternative to an appeal, but it could waste some time if it’s denied again.
Create multiple versions and A /B test
In advertising, A/B testing is the practice of creating multiple versions of an ad to see which best achieves some predetermined outcome.
In this case, A/B testing is done to see which ad passes review. This gives you a better shot at getting an ad out if one gets denied. If multiple ads pass on the first go, then you’ll get to see which performs best with customers.
Try organic posting instead
Facebook gives organic posts more leeway than ads in terms of the content they can contain. Of course, you still don’t want to discriminate or advocate violence. But you might be able to mention a dating service or use copy that would get flagged by ad reviews.
Organic posts usually see way less reach than paid ads, so it’s not an ideal option. But at least you can use the creative you’ve spent time making.
Note that boosted posts are reviewed like ads. So you can’t just create a post and boost it if it was already restricted.
Stay on top of Facebook Ads Rules and Marketing Policies
Facebook describes their standards as “a living set of guidelines.” Twice a month, they meet globally to review their current rule book and look for ways to improve it.
The good news is, Facebook publishes the notes from those meetings. You can read what the people responsible for Facebook’s community and ad policies are planning to change in just a few minutes each month. With that kind of heads-up, you’ll never have another ad rejected. Well, fewer ads rejected, anyway.
Now that you know all the Facebook ads rules, you’re ready to start brainstorming some creative. If you need some inspiration from those that do it really well, check out these examples of top performing Facebook ads.