Part of managing successful ad campaigns involves knowing what types of ad content is disallowed and what’s restricted across the social and search ad landscape. Most prohibited content (counterfeit goods, illegal products and services, etc.) and restricted content (political ads, alcohol, etc.) follows similar standards from one platform to the next, but each company has its own set of rules.
For the marketers who are often tasked with getting ad campaigns up and running in a moment’s notice, knowing what ad content may be blocked by an automatic system could be a lifesaver for the social media ad manager who spends her time in the trenches, uploading creative, setting ad filters and waiting for approval.
Across all social and search ad platforms, the standard rules apply for prohibited ads: no promoting counterfeit goods, tobacco, illegal products or services. No promotions that include trademark or copyright infringement or fraudulent and deceptive practices. Restricted ad content – ads you can run, but with certain limitations – are a bit more varied from platform to platform. Some platforms make their rules easy to follow or refrain from getting too much into the minutiae of things, while others are very specific. The following list gives marketers a general idea of each platforms prohibited and restricted ad guidelines, while also calling out the more unique policies from site to site.
Facebook and Instagram
Facebook’s prohibited ad content across its family of apps includes the standards: no ads promoting illegal products or services, tobacco products or firearms and weapons. It also prohibits ads for surveillance equipment or any ad content that includes third-party infringement (no ads that violate copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity or other personal or proprietary rights).
But there are a few topics worth noting. For example, the company does not allow ads that lead to a non-functioning landing page, “This includes landing page content that interferes with a person’s ability to navigate away from the page.” You cannot advertise for payday loans, paycheck advancement services or bail bonds. And here’s one that makes anyone wonder if there was a specific instance that inspired the rule: Facebook does not allow the sale of body parts.
For restricted content, advertisers wanting to promote online dating services must receive permission from the platform before running ads, same with political and issue-related ads and cryptocurrency products and services. Promotions around gambling, state lotteries, OTC drugs and online pharmacies also come with restrictions.
Drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs in the U.S. must first be certified via LegitScript before they can apply to run ads on Facebook’s platforms. And ads for weight loss products and plans must be targeted to users age 18 years and older.
Google and YouTube
has recently taken efforts to simply
and standardize its content policies. It didn’t actually change or updates
its rules around allowed and disallowed ads, but instead, reorganized how it
presents content policies and restrictions across AdSense, AdMob and Ad
“One consistent piece of feedback we’ve heard from our publishers is that they want us to further simplify our policies, across products, so that they are easier to understand and follow,” wrote Google’s Director of Sustainable Ads Scott Spencer on the Inside AdSense blog.
Google keeps its prohibited and restricted ads general, outlining a high-level over view of what’s prohibited and what’s restricted. Prohibited ad content includes:
products or services
that enable dishonest behavior
also separates out ad practices it prohibits: abusing the ad network,
misrepresentation and data collection and use (“Our advertising partners should
not misuse this information, nor collect it for unclear purposes or without
appropriate security measures”).
The company’s list of restricted ad content is more comprehensive, but still stays within the usual parameters without any odd items – like human body parts. Google’s restricted content ad policies include:
- Adult content
- Gambling and games
- Healthcare and medicines
- Political content
- Financial services
- Legal requirements (all ads must comply with the laws and regulations pertaining to the location where the ad is displayed).
Google keeps its ad policies at a high-level for the most part, a tactic that gives the company more control to decide on a case-by-case basis what’s allowed and what’s not.
LinkedIn is a Microsoft-owned platform, but its prohibited and restricted ad policies are separate from the rules outlined for Microsoft and Bing. In addition to the usual disallowed content, LinkedIn’s list of prohibited ads has some interesting entries. For example, the site does not allow ads for downloadable ringtones and occult pursuits (“Ads for fortune telling, dream interpretations and individual horoscopes are prohibited, except when the emphasis is on amusement rather than serious interpretation”).
Also, instead of having restrictive measures around political ads, LinkedIn prohibits any political ad content, same as its parent company: no ads advocating for or against a political candidate or promoting ballot propositions.
LinkedIn’s restricted ad content includes the following:
- Animal products
- Dating services
- Soliciting funds
- Medical devices
- Short-term loans and financial services.
side note about LinkedIn’s ad policies, the company specifically states that it
prohibits ads that are offensive to good taste. “This means ads must not be,
for example, hateful, vulgar, sexually suggestive or violent. In special circumstances,
LinkedIn may determine that an ad that was acceptable is no longer appropriate
as we update our policies to reflect new laws or clarify our position.”
Microsoft’s disallowed and restricted ad policies, which include rules for Bing search ads, can be confusing to follow. The company has published a one-page list of “Restricted and disallowed content policies,” but within that page are links to more detailed pages for “Disallowed Content Policies” and “Disallowed and restricted products and services policies.”
Microsoft disallows any election related content, political parties, candidates and ballot measures. Ads promoting fundraising efforts for political candidates, parties, PACs and ballot measures are also prohibited.
As with other platforms, Microsoft doesn’t allow weapons to be advertised on its platforms. This includes firearms and ammunition, but also knives: “Knives that are positioned as weapons or whose primary use is violence, including switchblade knives, disguised knives, buckle knives, lipstick case knives, air gauge knives, knuckle knives and writing pen knives.”
In Brazil, India and Vietnam, Microsoft does not allow advertising that promotes infant feeding products such as baby formula, feeding bottles, rubber nipples or baby food of any kind.
To get a clear understanding of Microsoft’s disallowed ads versus the ads that can run but only with restrictions, advertisers need to review the company’s “Restricted and disallowed content policies” — as opposed to its “Disallowed Content Policies” page — where it outlines specific rules and regulations.
Pinterest’s prohibited ad content guidelines follows the standard themes. No ads for:
species and live animals
products and services
defines “Sensitive content” as anything it deems divisive or disturbing. For
example, language or imagery that is offensive or profane, excessively violent
or gory, vulgar or sickening or politically, culturally or racially divisive or
insensitive. It also does not allow content that capitalizes on controversial
or tragic events – or references to sensitive health and medical conditions.
Pinterest does not allow any “Adult and nudity content” in ads on its platform. Also, ads containing clickbait are disallowed. Like LinkedIn, it prohibits political campaign ads.
The company keeps its list of restricted ad content simple with a detailed outline of what it will and won’t allow around its restricted content. For example, ads that include contests, sweepstakes and Pinterest incentives are restricted. Advertisers are asked not to require users to save a specific image or suggest that Pinterest in any way sponsors or endorses the promotion. It does state specifically that advertisers are not allowed to promote anything that, “Directs people to click on Pinterest buttons to get money, prizes or deals.”
Pinterest’s other restricted ad content includes:
products and services (ads promoting cryptocurrencies and payday loans are
products and services (no ads for lotteries, gambling gaming apps or gambling
products and services
terms of its healthcare related ads, Pinterest does allow ads promoting products
like eyeglasses or content lenses, Class I and II medical devices and OTC,
non-prescription medicines. It does not allow ads for weight loss or appetite
suppressant pills and supplements or promotions that claim unrealistic cosmetic
list of prohibited and restricted list of ads follows suit with the other
social platforms. Disallowed ads include promotions for counterfeit goods,
hazardous products or services, illegal or fraudulent products or services and
more of the same standard policies. It states specifically that advertisers are
prohibited from using inappropriate targeting: “All targeting must be relevant,
appropriate, and in compliance with relevant legal obligations of the
Reddit does not allow advertisements for addiction treatment centers and services, it does not accept advertising pertaining to political issues, elections or candidates outside of the U.S. It has a very specific list of financial services and products that are disallowed, including bail bonds, payday loans, debt assistance programs, cryptocurrency wallets, credit and debit cards, and “get rich quick schemes.”
advertiser wanting to promote gambling-related services must have their ads
manually approved and certified by Reddit: “In order to be approved, the
advertiser must be actively working with a Reddit Sales Representative.” This
does not include ads for gaming promotions where nothing of value is exchanged,
gambling-related merchandise or hotel-casinos where the ad is focused on the
while Reddit does allow ads for dating sites, apps and services, it prohibits
any centered on infidelity, fetish communities or any that discriminate by excluding
persons of specific races, sexualities, religions or political affiliations.
prohibited ads include the usual suspects, but there are also entries that
appear to be designed because of its younger audience. For example, the
platform states specifically that it does not allow ads that, “Encourage
Snapping and driving or other dangerous behaviors.”
Also, it disallows ads intended to “shock the user” and no ads for app installs from sources other than the official app store for the user’s device. Other prohibited ads include any promotions that involve:
or discriminatory content
restricted ads for alcohol include a list of 18 countries where alcohol ads
cannot be placed. Alcohol ad campaigns that run in allowed countries must not appeal
particularly to minors or encourage excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages.
They must also refrain from glamorizing alcohol, “Or otherwise misrepresent the
effects of consuming alcohol.” Snapchat requires alcohol advertisers to include
warning labels such as “Please drink responsibly” within their ad copy.
alcohol promotions must be targeted to users who meet the legal drinking age
requirement within the country where the ads run. The same goes for gambling and
lottery related ads – they must be targeted to users who meet the legal age
requirement to gamble.
as Reddit, Snapchat allows ads for dating services, but they must be targeted
to users age 18 and over, and cannot include provocative, overtly sexual
content or reference prostitution. Also, Snapchat does not allow ads that
of Snapchat’s restrictive ad policies are by country. For example, it only
permits targeting lottery-related ads to 14 countries, including Brazil, Iraq,
Italy, Poland and Russia – but not the U.S. Snapchat does not permit targeting
ads for online dating services to Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Advertisers cannot target ads for OTC
medicines in Columbia, Iraq, Lebanon, Romania, Spain and Turkey. It also does
not permit targeting ads for condoms in Bahrain, Ireland, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Monaco, Oman, Poland and Qatar.
other words, if you are an advertiser managing multiple ad campaigns for
various brands across multiple countries, you probably should bookmark Snapchat’s
ad restrictions page.
list of prohibited and restricted ads are arguably the easiest to follow. There
are no out of the ordinary ads disallowed on the platform, and its restrictive
policies are the same standard rules applied across the social ad landscape.
The one area where Twitter distinguishes its policies from other platforms is by stating specifically that it prohibits ads promoting malware products and has restrictions around promotions for software downloads.
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.
As ad policies change across platforms, Marketing Land will be sure to update our list.
About The Author
In the time it took you to read the title of this article, parse what it might be about and decide that you wanted to click on it, many more viewers checked out and went on to the next one. It’s nothing personal – that’s just how most 21st-century digital consumers process information. The attention span of the average ad viewer is growing ever shorter, and ads that require sustained engagement are less likely to click with many audiences.
So how can you capture this shrinking resource with your digital marketing tactics? To pique a viewer’s interest (or at least nurture a seed of it in their brain), you’ll need to incorporate some best practices for keeping it short, punchy and useful. These six strategies will help guide your digital marketing toward the right balance of brevity and information.
1. Clarity is king
When in doubt, use simple and concise prose. Your guiding principle should be to create something that’s useful or interesting to the viewer and doesn’t make them work too hard for it. Tell them in a sentence or less why they should care about your ad.
One way to create clarity is to give the viewer a simple and concrete concept to latch on to. Some examples of good “anchor points” include:
- A problem with a competitors’ product that your product solves.
- A new model or feature that’s just been added.
- A strong, single-sentence customer testimonial.
- A short phrase that uses active, exciting language.
- A pleasant or exciting image that creates an aspirational desire.
It takes practice to develop your digital advertising strategies in a way that’s assertive about demanding the customer’s attention, so it’s key to use A/B tests and focus groups to continually refine your approach. And when in doubt, consider the limitations and advantages of the medium in which you’re working.
2. Know the best practices of the platform you’re using
Each digital advertising platform has its own set of rules—not just the formal ones, but the implied ones. Know the terrain of the digital landscape and make sure that you can articulate your message in different ways depending on the platform.
With Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platform advertising, you’ll need to be especially aware of this. Something that works as a tweet often doesn’t make a good LinkedIn post, and vice versa. If your social media posts aren’t getting enough engagement, consider that they might need to be tailored to the platform better and review some best practices and stay on top of recent updates when writing for different social media.
These best practices include making sure your formatting is correct, avoiding duplicate content and sharing high-quality, legally owned images that users will enjoy seeing on their feed. Familiarizing yourself with each platform’s unique standards, such as their character limits and post formatting is also important. Typically, less text is best and will allow for a greater visual appeal, especially on Twitter, which has one of the smallest character limits. Overall, always consider the end-user, what they will enjoy seeing, and how you can best help them.
3. Don’t push video content where it’s not appropriate
By now, everyone knows the secret of the “pivot to video” that swept the digital ad industry a few years ago: That the numbers on engagement with video content had been inflated, severely in some cases. That doesn’t mean that video isn’t a great medium for reaching digital audiences – but it serves as a reminder that video needs to have its place in context.
Autoplaying videos on a website home page are one example of a video strategy to avoid. For one thing, it often causes pages to load slowly, and you can see why a slow-loading website would be a problem for a consumer with a radically shortened attention span. And for another, it increases a viewer’s cognitive load in a way that can be unpleasant if it’s unexpected. For many people, watching a video is a bigger cognitive commitment than reading a few short paragraphs of an article, so try to consider whether video actually improves your message.
Lastly, keep video content short and sweet unless you’re purposefully doing a more in-depth video for customers further down the sales funnel. And great long-form content has its place as well – but you should consider how best to use it. In fact, that’s exactly what our next tip is about.
4. Get more out of your content by splitting it up
The 21st-century attention span works best if you feed it in small bites. If you’ve got a cool informational video or article that’s long and involved, consider splitting it into parts. This accomplishes several things:
- It gives you more search engine real estate and can allow you to segment your audience more effectively based on the individual interests you’re addressing in each section.
- It makes the content more readable or viewer-friendly.
- It maximizes the utility of your content by turning a single post into a week’s or a month’s worth.
This idea also applies
5. Personalize ad content
There’s one relatively easy way to make your content way more useful and interesting to your audience: Personalize it. In an age when consumers see thousands of ads per day, personalization is an effective way to make your content stand out.
Almost all of today’s ad platforms offer some kind of personalization and targeting tools. Whether it’s social media PPC, search engine PPC, email marketing or any other platform, there’s probably a way to personalize your ad displays. PPC ads are particularly attractive because platforms like Facebook and Google offer robust targeting tools built into the ad buy system and solid metrics to track your ads’ performance.
It’s also worth noting that personalization can cross the line into creeping out the consumer, so be wary of personalization that targets potentially sensitive information. Keep a sense of empathy for the consumer in mind and ask yourself, “Would I be okay with someone sending me a targeted ad or email about this?”
6. Use visual aids and interactive elements to leave a more lasting impression
Content that creates visual interest for the viewer will always have the advantage. Infographics and charts are a great way to accomplish this, as they can convey a lot of information in a useful, bite-sized format. The flowchart, for example, is a classic because it gives a lot of useful information and adds a level of interactivity and personalization.
It’s also an exciting time to take advantage of the many new ways for customers to interact with a website or app. That same flowchart, for example, could be turned into an interactive personalization quiz that helps customers find the product they need from a range of choices. Meanwhile, many eyewear manufacturers now offer “digital try-on” features that superimpose a pair of frames on a user’s picture. While these features require more dedication and attention from the viewer, they can be effective because they create interactive engagement, not just passive viewing.
Some marketers might wish for the days of five-paragraph ad copy, and some might love the challenge of the new attention economy, but what’s clear to everyone is that the lightning-strike attention span is the new normal. Successful 21st-century marketers will address that need by finding ways to communicate more information in smaller bites, and by doing it in a way that respects the constant demands our world places on a consumer’s time and attention.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Visiture, an end-to-end e-commerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.