Why was my ad disapproved? The definitive guide for all platforms

A breakdown of ad policies for all major online advertising platforms.

You spend all that time thinking of the perfect ad, finding the right creative, matching picture, and click upload, only to never see your ad go live.

All your hard work gone to waste.

Why is that?

Very often, marketers unknowingly violate platform policies on what content is allowed and what content is prohibited.

We put together a list of policies that the major ad platforms have regarding what content you are allowed to advertise and what content you are not allowed to advertise.

You can use this as a guide for future ad copy. Whenever you are unsure of whether a particular ad is allowed or not, refer back to here.

Google Ads Prohibited Content

Google keeps its list of prohibited content broad in nature, allowing it more discretion as to what it deems a violation of ad policy. That said, there are several categories of prohibited and restricted content on the platform.

Prohibited content is content that is not allowed under any circumstances.

Restricted content can be allowed, provided that you meet certain criteria, such as getting Google approval complying with local laws in the areas you target with ads.

Prohibited content on Google Ads includes:

1. Counterfeit goods

Google does not allow you to sell or promote goods that contain a copied trademark or logo.

Counterfeit goods, which try to pass themselves off as legitimate versions of established brands in an attempt to trick customers, fall under this category.

Any ads that describe themselves as a knockoff, replica, imitation or fake version of a real brand will also get disapproved.

Violations are taken quite seriously by Google, and repeated attempts to do this can result in yoru accounts being banned from advertising on Google.

2. Dangerous products or services

Google does not allow the promotion of products that are inherently harmful in nature.

Examples of what Google deems dangerous products include recreational drugs, psychoactive substances, equipment that promotes drug use, weapons, ammunition, fireworks or explosive material and tobacco products.

If your ad had anything to do with a product that could be considered dangerous, more than likely it was taken down by Google and that is not why it is showing.

3. Products that encourage dishonest behavior

In a similar vain, Google Ads bans products or services that promote unethical behavior.

This could include hacking software, services designed to artificially inflate ad or website traffic, websites that create fake documents, or cheating services for college students.

4. Inappropriate or shocking content

Google Ads bans ads that display shocking content or promote hatred, violence, discrimination or intolerance.

Examples include content that promotes bullying, racial discrimination, graphic crime scenes, animal cruelty, self harm, black mail or profanity.

5. Abusing the Ad Network

In addition to the actual content that Google tries to keep safe, there are certain practices when running Google Ads campaigns you are not allowed to perform.

One example is abusing the ad network to promote content that contains malware, tricking users to reach a different destination from the one they intended, or promoting a destination where the sole purpose is showing more ads.

6. Data collection and use

Another banned practice on Google is mishandling sensitive consumer information, such as full names, emails, house addresses, phone numbers, ethnicity and so forth.

This could include obtaining credit card information over a non-secure server and violations of policies based on remarketing.

7. Misrepresentation

Any ads that mislead users and give false information about a product will be disapproved by Google Ads. This could include offering false information on pricing plans, when users will be charged and making unrealistic claims, especially related to weight loss products or financial gains.

Google Ads Restricted Content

Besides content and practices that are completely prohibited on the platform, there is also content that is restricted on Google Ads. This means that it is culturally sensitive, and under circumstances can be allowed to run, while at other times be restricted.

Adult Content

While Google Ads broadly does not allow adult content in ads, ads for sites that contain some form of adult content may under circumstances be allowed to run, as long as they don't target minors.

Examples of certain ads that may be approved include ads for strip clubs, adult magazines, dating apps and modeling agencies.

Alcohol

Ads for alcohol can be approved by Google if the country in question allows alcohol ads and if they are not shown to minors. While this restricts the target range for your ads, if these conditions are met then you can have alcohol ads in Google.

Importantly, Google will also restrict ads on non-alcohol beverages or other drinks that are used in a drinking context.

Copyrights

Google's copyright policies can be confusing, but overall Google Ads will not allow ads that use copyrighted material without permission. To authorize yourself for copyrighted material, you need to apply for a certificate to advertise.

If you see a competitor using your copyrighted material, you can submit a copyright-related complaint.

Gambling and Games

Google allows advertising for gambling and games if they comply with local laws and the advertiser has received the proper Google Ads certification.

Gambling ads must target approved countries, have a landing page that displays content about responsible gambling and not be shown to minors.

Any ads related to physical casinos, online poker, lotteries or sports betting could be affected by Google Ads gambling policies.

Healthcare and Policies

Some healthcare related content cannot be advertised at all while in other areas advertisements are allowed but with a certification.

Political Content

Google allows political ads, but says that they "expect all political ads and destinations to comply with local campaign and election laws for any areas they target." Political ads are any ads that promote a political party or candidate, policy issue or vote.

Financial Services

For any ads related to the management or investment of money, along with cryptocurrencies and personalizes financial advice, advertisers must comply with state and local regulations for the regions or countries you are targeting with your ads.

Google has a list of country-specific requirements you can consult.

Google Ads Technical Requirements

Editorial requirements

Google's goal is to show high-quality ads to users that are relevant and that they have a high chance of clicking on. This means that the ad copy cannot include generic or gimmicky use of words, numbers or letters, such as: FREE, f-r-e-e-, or F₹€€!!

Destination Requirements

Google requires that ad destinations provide value to consumers. If an ad destination fundamentally does not give value to a user, then your ad will be disapproved.

Examples of ads with poor destination requirements that would be disapproved include:

  • a display URL that does not match the URL of the landing page, i.e. bikes.com redirecting to cars.com
  • a webpage that is under construction or broken
  • sites that have disabled a back button, forcing users to stay there.
  • sites that are not viewable in commonly used browsers

Technical Requirements

Google Ads has a host of technical requirements that all advertisers must follow. The following are not allowed:

  • Using more than one display URL domain in a single ad group
  • HTML 5 ads that don't function properly or appear blank
  • Exceeding account limits, such as for the number of ads, excessive submissions through multiple accounts. A full list of account limits can be found here. These include 10,000 campaigns per account, 20,000 ad groups per campaign and 20,000 keywords.
  • Campaign configuration that creates an undue burden on the Google Ads system.
  • Ads or destination content in an unsupported targeting language.
  • Unavailable video, unsupported video format, unacceptable scripts, such as any used to bypass Google's limitations on ads.

Ad Format Requirements

You need to make sure you follow the requirements for all the different types of ads that Google has to offer. For Google's standard text ads, for example, there are character limits for the headline, description, for others there are requirements for image size, video length and so forth.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads Prohibited Content

Facebook's list of prohibited content includes the following

  • Illegal products or services that are inappropriate for the age groups targeted
  • Discriminatory practices, such as when ads discriminate against a certain race, ethnicity, skin color, nationality, religion, gender or sexual identity.
  • Tobacco products are banned on Facebook
  • Drug and Drug related products
  • Unsafe supplements, as determined by Facebook at its own discretion.
  • Weapons, ammunition or explosives
  • Adult products or services, with the exception of family planning and contraceptives.
  • Adult content, including any nudity, people in sexual poses, or any ads sexualizing a person.
  • Third Party Infringement. Ads cannot violate the rights of third parties, including copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity or other personal information.
  • Sensational content, including any violent content.
  • Personal attributes: Ads cannot contain information of a personal nature, including anything about a person's race, beliefs, ethnicity, religion or sexual identification.
  • Misinformation: Any ads that include claims that have been debunked by third-party fact checkers or reputable organizations
  • Controversial content, including any ads that take a controversial stance on any political or social issues.
  • Non-functional landing pages, such a page content that makes it impossible for a user to navigate away from the page.
  • Surveillance equipment: ads cannot promote the sale of spy cams, mobile phone trackers or any other hidden surveillance equipment.
  • Grammar and Profanity: Ads cannot contain bad grammar or profanity. Symbols and letters need to be used properly.
  • Nonexistent functionality: Ads cannot trick users to click on something that does not offer the functionality it represents, such as a play button that doesn't actually play anything.
  • Wild health claims: Any ads that contain wildly unrealistic health claims about losing weight will be disapproved, especially ads that contain before and after pictures that are exaggerated.
  • Pay day loans: Ads cannot promote payday loans, paycheck advances, bail bonds, or any short-term financing options, usually any loan less than 90 days.
  • Multilevel marketing: Any business model offering huge returns for little investment is barred from advertising on Facebook, as is the case for most multilevel marketing schemes.
  • Other prohibited ads on Facebook include: penny auctions, counterfeit documents, low quality content, spyware or malware, automatic animation, unauthorized streaming devices.
  • Certain financial products and services are banned from being advertised on Facebook, such as initial coin offerings ICOs, Binary Options and Contract for Difference Trading

There are also a few interesting items that Facebook goes outright and bans, such as the sale of body parts.

Facebook also will ban ads that contain misleading claims, such as any ad that promises to offer enormous financial gain, weight loss or any promises that are hard to fulfill.

Facebook Restricted Ads

Besides the above mentioned prohibited items, there are a number of ads that require prior Facebook approval before you can post them. These include:

Alcohol

Ads that are about alcohol need to comply with local regulation and include age and country targeting criteria consistent with Facebook's targeting guidelines.

Dating

Ads for online dating services require Facebook's approval beforehand and adhere to the company's dating guidelines.

Gambling

Any online gambling or poker games have to be preapproved with Facebook, including online casinos or lottery ads. They also have to target people older than 18.

State lotteries

Lotteries run by state governments can advertise on Facebook, provided the ads are targeted in accordance with applicable law in the jurisdiction where the ads are targeted.

Over-the-counter drugs

Ads that promote over-the-counter medicine must comply with local laws and be approved beforehand.

Subscription services

Any subscription services that are advertises on Facebook and include automatic payments need to comply with Facebook's subscription services requirements.

It’s worth noting that the ad content policies listed here for each of the platforms are as they stand now, but social platforms have a history of regularly changing their ad content policies. This has happened most notably during the past year and a half with political advertisements. Facebook has gone back and forth with its rules around cryptocurrency ads, totally banning the ads in January, 2018 and then reversing its policies six months later. It wasn’t until last year Facebook began implementing ad targeting restrictions for weapon accessory ads to users 18 years and older.

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