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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Facebook Advertising Policies Homophobic

We are running ads on Facebook to raise awareness of the Best Gay Ads campaign currently being organised by Pink! AccuraCast. The ads feature some of the popular print advertisements that have been published by big brands targeting LGBT audiences.

Facebook, however, is displaying a surprising level of homophobia, and disapproving a lot of these ads.

The first ad we submitted is shown below:

Facebook disapproved this ad. The reason given was:

"The image of this advert is either irrelevant or inappropriate. As per sections 4 and 5 of Facebook's Advertising Guidelines, the image included with your advert should be directly related to the product/service being advertised. Images may not exploit political, sexual or other sensitive issues for irrelevant commercial agendas.
Additionally, images that are overly explicit or provocative, or that reveal too much skin, are not permitted. Images that may either degrade or idealise any health condition or body type are also not allowed. Additionally, images may not emulate Facebook features or suggest functionality which is not present (e.g. a video play button). If you choose to submit this advert again, please use an an appropriate image that complies with these guidelines."

We wrote to them asking why. Our email said:
"The ad is asking gay users to vote on the best gay ads. The image is taken from one such ad - it's a man with a barcode on his chest. This image does not show gratuitous nudity. It is not any more sexually suggestive than the dozens of other ads on Facebook showing men with their shirts of and advertising exercise routines or 6-pack abs.

I find it especially distasteful of Facebook to disapprove ads more often than not simply on the basis that they're gay themed. (This is not the first time we've had to complain about gay-themed ads beng disapproved for no reason at all.)

If you're going to disapprove every gay-themed ad that comes your way, then you need to update your policy to reflect such a homophobic bias."

To which someone from Facebook Online Sales Operations replied:
"Thanks for writing in. The image of this ad is either irrelevant or inappropriate. Per our Advertising Guidelines, the image on your ad should be relevant and appropriate to the item being advertised. Images that are overly explicit, provocative, or that reveal too much skin are not allowed. Images that may either degrade or idealize any health condition or body type are also not allowed. Additionally, images may not emulate site features or suggest functionality which is not present (e.g. a video play button). If you choose to submit this ad again, please use an appropriate image that adheres to all of Facebook's Advertising Guidelines."

Now if you compare our ad to any of the "Get 6-pack abs" or "Male Waxing" ads that you see on Facebook, ours shows less skin and is definitely just as relevant.

So, we wrote back to Facebook, saying:
"Could you please elaborate how exactly this image is contentious?

The image is from a gay ad, and it directs people to vote on gay ads - hence it is directly relevant.
It is not sexually explicit - it shows just a part of a man's chest. A number of other ads on Facebook show naked torsos with exaggerated 6-pack abs, which should also then be banned along the same set of rules.
The image does not degrade or idealize any health conditions.
It does not suggest wrong functionality.
And it does not emulate site features.

I'm sorry, but I definitely do not understand this decision. All facts point to just a blatant bias against gay ads, whereas the same or even more bare bodied advertising in a non-gay context seems to be allowed."

Facebook's response was downright ridiculous:
"Thanks for checking this question with us. Please note that based in the feedback received from our users these images can be rejected, as we have noticed that in the past many users were complaining about the images. Please note that we don't have any especial guidelines for gay themed ads, we were approving some of yours when we thought that the ads were following our guidelines. 
A similar ad addressed to heterosexual users will be also rejected. We don't have different standards based on the sexual orientation and we want to provide a fair service and support to all of our advertiser, regardless about which audience they are targeting."

The ad never got any airtime. It got held for editorial approval as soon as we submitted it, and got disapproved shortly after. It had a total of 0 impressions. How then did any user get to send Facebook negative feedback on the ad without ever seeing it?

We've now replied saying:
"According to your response, the images were rejected due to feedback received from your users.

How exactly did any user provide any feedback on the ads if the ad was not allowed to gain a single impression?

As soon as we submitted the ads, they showed as Pending Review and then they went straight to being disapproved. Not one single Facebook user out of the demographic we've selected for the ad (gay males) has ever seen the image.

The mind boggles as to how your users reject ads they've never even seen?!

I keenly await your response."

A new ad we submitted, which is clipped from an Abercrombie & Fitch print ad, also just got disapproved. See the image below:

Let's see how this turns out!

Facebook replied, saying:
"Thanks for answering our email. Please note that our users provided us information in the past about similar images. Therefore we can know in advance if a specific image will generate good or bad feedback very accurately."

Update 2
This post is getting too long. We are therefore posting an update to this issue in a new post. See it here:
"Facebook's Homophobia Continues"


  1. It says right in the Facebook policy you quoted that...

    "images that may either degrade or idealise any health condition or body type are also not allowed."
    You (like all the other gay marketing machines) are idealizing smooth twinks. Apparently, everyone else who isn't a smooth twink simply doesn't exist in your gay world, and if they do, they should feel like a turd. It wasn't necessary to show a shirtless person whatsoever. Maybe you wish to perpetuate the slutty gay man stereotype. Maybe you honestly feel that no gay man would pay attention to an ad that didn't appeal to more than the brain stems and crotches of the viewers. Facebook was right to decline the ad. I hope they decline others like it because it IS irrelevant.

  2. @Robert perhaps your argument would make more sense directed at the creators of the A&F and barcode ads.

    We didn't create them! Some other organisation did.

    We were just using those as samples of ads targeting LGBT consumers.

    If you dislike the ads, the best way to voice your opinion would be to comment against them or vote on more regular-guy ads in our Best Gay Ads collection on Facebook & Twitter:


    And if Facebook is really against just the idealising of a health condition then why are ads featuring men with 6-pack abs and smooth firm chests being waxed ok?

  3. If the objection is a shirtless guy, then why is it ok to show one surrounded by women?

    The fact is that the add is completely harmless, not suggestive or offensive and good on the eye.

    If the objection is idealizing what a gay man looks like then this is relevant all over the board.

    I would rather see a picture of 2 healthy, fit and happy guys representing a gay image than 2 guys who eat badly, don't exercise and have little pride in their appearance which seems to be a large part of the population gay or straight.

    Bring on the eye candy. It works for me and i suggest that the people it doesn't work for should sort out their issues and stop thers enjoying beauty. It is hard to come by these days!


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