More adventures with Facebook ads: Definite weirdness in what gets approved

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May 18, 2016 by Paul Dughi

Portrait of surprised woman on white background

I thought it was me, but after talking at length with Facebook’s ad helpers, I’m convinced there are some really weird bugs in their ad approval process.   We’ve had really mixed results with getting things approved.

I wrote here about how Facebook kept flagging some ads because of “sexual content” when there was none.  A 50+ year old woman talking about how she won free groceries for a year was considered “sexual content?”

But wait.  There’s more.

Also had trouble scheduling ads between tight windows, say between 9-10pm using the scheduler tool.  When I did that (it was a plea to watch our 10pm TV newscast), the ads never fired.

The Facebook ad helper told me it wouldn’t work on such a tight window (even though it lets you buy it that way) and to try a 2 hour window instead.  I did.  Nothing changed.

I had to broaden it to a 3 hour window and that worked, but didn’t meet our goals.

Now, there’s more weird-ity going on.   We took some posts that we wrote that and went to boost them.  Facebook wouldn’t let us boost them.  So it’s OK for us to post that we are having a contest (for free), but we can’t buy ad boosts to increase the reach.  Sounds like a bad business model.  Again, I think it’s a glitch.

Then, it got even stranger.  I had this one which was rejected twice.  I set it up a third time and it was accepted.


approved 3

They had already accepted this one, which was virtually the same.



Then, I had another ad set that was accepted, so I cloned it and changed out a picture with something similar.  That was rejected.  The reasons were pretty unclear.  It appeared to me (and the Facebook ad helper I talked to) that everything was OK.

They told me to change up a few things and try again.  So I did.

I guessed it was the photo – can’t understand why, but maybe they worried about a copyright issue?  FYI, I bought the license off of Adobe Stock Photos so shouldn’t be an issue.  I took out reference to the contest.  Rejected.  Tried eliminating all references to contests and paying for anything.  Rejected.

Then, after I appealed again, it was accepted.  Hooray.

So, I took the exact same ad that was already approved and used Facebook’s stock photos that they make available just to change up the visual.

The only difference between the approved ad and the new submission was I substituted one photo with a Facebook licensed photo.  Guess what?  They rejected it.


approved 3 (2)





I don’t even want to get into what happened when we submitted slide shows or videos, it was even more confusing.  Even the people I talked to were confused.

So, here’s what I’ve learned in the last month:

  • There are definitely some issues with whatever algorithm FB uses to do initial screenings on ads
  • FB is good at telling you something needs to be fixed, but not good at telling you WHAT exactly needs to be fixed
  • The acceptance of ads is very inconsistent
  • Even things FB says you can do with their Ad Manager don’t always work the way they say it will
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  It may just work that second, third, or fourth try.
  • Expect some weirdness.
  • Check constantly, appeal, talk to the FB ad helper team (they’re pretty great by the way – even if they don’t have the answers, they dig in and try to figure it out – and they’re honest about things.)
  • Try swapping out a word, a picture, a phrase and keep it up until you get the right combo.

And my final comment:  it was so much easier to post something and boost it then to try to make it into an ad.  Sometimes the post turned into an ad would get rejected (which shows it’s sponsored), but boosting it without making it an ad (and therefore not noted as sponsored) worked just fine.


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