How to Navigate Facebook’s New Political Ad Rules Before the Election

Brands planning to run political or issue-based ads on Facebook in the run-up to the election this year will have to contend with new rules. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced September 3 that the platform won’t accept new ads during the week prior to Election Day, November 3. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t run your campaign.

On September 24, two Facebook product marketing managers explained in a webinar for businesses how the new rules will work, and how best to navigate the week-long lock-down. The best strategy, in short: Plan as early as possible. 

1. Know what qualifies as a political ad. 

Facebook’s rules apply to advertising that is about or touches on an election, candidate, voting, or social issues. As outlined by the project managers, it can encompass almost any get-out-the-vote effort, any stripe of political advertising, and any discussion of timely social issues in an advertisement. “Social issues” is a particularly hazy purview. It includes civil rights, health care, immigration, women’s rights, income inequality, and much more. While Darcey Kane Geary, a product marketing manager for North America Business Integrity, said Facebook wants to encourage advertisers “who thoughtfully want to address these issues that are top of mind,” she also said all advertising that falls into this purview should be submitted for approval and would be individually reviewed by Facebook–a process that can take 72 hours. That’s after any given advertiser is pre-approved to run ads under this umbrella.

What wouldn’t get approved? That line is also hazy. Facebook didn’t offer much guidance on this point beyond sharing the obvious examples of advertisements attempting to suppress votes by suggesting voting is useless, or that voters would be infected with Covid-19. Non-paid posts containing issues and even active misinformation or attempted voter suppression will continue to not be subject to such scrutiny; Facebook says such posts could receive a label directing viewers to information from vetted electoral news sources.

2. Get authorized early.

Any entity–whether it’s your business, you as an individual, or an agency–needs pre-approval from Facebook for ads related to politics, debated social issues, or the election. The approval can take four to five days, according to the company, and involves certifying the advertiser’s identity through both two-factor authentication and by receiving a letter in the mail to an address in the United States. This is Facebook’s way of trying to ensure that advertisers running political ads in the U.S. are not foreign entities. It also involves setting up proper disclaimers, including a “paid for by” disclaimer

3. Get your disclaimer, and then don’t tinker.

The political advertising disclaimer an advertiser sets up in the initial approval step will need to remain static. Any changes to it, or to the pages associated with it, might trigger scrutiny by Facebook and lead to the removal of an ad. Specifically, Facebook employees noted that advertisers should not remove the individual who set up the disclaimer from the page’s administration or change the disclaimer’s language. Changes to, or invalidity of website addresses, phone numbers, or profile names associated with the disclaimer could also illegitimize it.

4. Prepare well in advance of October 27.

Remember, it’s just new issue, advocacy, and voting ads that Facebook won’t allow during the week leading up to the U.S. election. If an ad is approved and running before the period, it should be able to continue to run, the company says. Facebook encouraged advertisers to prepare early, submit early, and launch their ads well before the week of the new-ad ban. It also encouraged business owners to bid high for their placements, to give them the best chance of reaching their targets–but that’s just business.

Said Cameron Zick, a product marketing manager of Facebook business integrity: “There are many things that can stop your ads from running, so take the time upfront.”

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